Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Klamath Falls - Not Exactly (Part II)

The Search for Klamath "Falls" - continued

So coming into town I figured I'd see giant signs telling me about how to go see the falls. I'm not seeing them and things are looking suspiciously flat - the geography is just not right. There are hills, but not near the river. The following bad photos that I actually dug out of the trash shows about how confused I was

Now i will ask for directions when I need to, but something's just not right. I pull over and ask the GPS to tell me about points of interest that are "falls." It cheerfully provides a list and the closest one is a hundred miles away. It even tells me about Bridalveil in Yosemite which is a long, long way away. This is not looking good. Now I have a puzzle and I can't resist most puzzles. And I sense a clever trap: "Oh look we got another one looking for "the falls."

I drive further up the lake looking for tourist info and I pull off at Hagelstein Park and look at a map on a board. It's a very helpful map and Klamath Falls is on it and I see they have tourist info back there and there is a symbol by the name. Looking at the legend I see that Klamath Falls has 3 museums, and nothing about any falls. I'm pretty sure I have my answer. If there was a falls, it went bye bye.

I finally got enough of a brain to realize that this big river-fed (as opposed to spring-fed) lake I'm beside is created by a barrier at the end of the lake (either natural or human-made) and any falls would be after that barrier and given that the water is flowing towards Klamath Falls then my driving further up the lake, albeit very pretty, is not going to help my quest.

I turn around, and I stop to gas the car up for the drive back.
As I pull up to the pump, I stop the car, open my door some to release the latch to the gas cap and while still looking down I see a pair of boots four feet away from me. I nearly jump out of my own shoes, but before crying out; aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh, I have the presence of mind to look up and see that the boots are attached to an attendant. Remember those? Those were the people whose job it was to put the gas in your car before much of the world figured out you were bloody well capable of doing it yourself. Completely taken aback I ask: You are full service?" "Yes" he says in a friendly tone. As he's getting the pump going I work up the courage to tentatively ask "So are there any falls in Klamath Falls?" He says "Well there used to be, but it's a dam now." I then wander into the store, and when I have a bit of information I can't resist asking other people in the know about it as well to get their take on things. (Admittedly, this drove my ex crazy.) The woman behind the counter tells me that the falls went away a very long time ago, and it's a very common question. (See, I knew it was a trap.)

I then drive into town but don't readily find the tourist info until I come across a sign telling me the address, but I decide that I have my answer, the afternoon shadows are starting to get long, I need to drive back to California possibly through a storm, and that I'll do some reading on the internet about it.

What I saw was a common story though with some unique angles. I was looking at a depressed working class town that is past its heyday and is struggling to re-identify itself. The city's web site states that fact as the very first line of their web site (http://www.ci.klamath-falls.or.us/)

Welcome to the City of Klamath Falls. We are a City in transition and as such, we are welcoming many new businesses, homes and people into our community.

This cool train engine is in a park right at the water's edge. Reading at http://www.ci.klamath-falls.or.us/visitors/history tells me that when Southern Pacific Railroad came in 1909, the town was a boom town until the great Depression crashed down in 1929 and the lumber boom died.

But I still don't have any mention of a "falls." Do you know how had it is to find mention of something that everyone wants to pretend doesn't exist? Careful reading of the Wiki page for Klamath Falls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_Falls,_Oregon - Donate to Wikipedia while you're there.) says that the city (then named "Linkville") was basically dropped on top of the falls, and then completely shoved said falls out of the way when one of several dams were built circa 1907 by the "Klamath Reclamation Project" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_Reclamation_Project). Note the naming style and the date. My how things have changed. In 1907 "reclamation" was about draining marshes for farmland, now it more means restoring the wetlands to maintain bio-diversity. And thus we have tripped over the major political football of the area. Water rights (Go back to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_Falls,_Oregon and page down, and we also have the completely biased Bucket Brigade: http://www.klamathbucketbrigade.org/), which boils down to the common theme of: farmer vs. wildlife preservation that comes up all over the place.

What I can't figure out is if the huge bucket in front of city hall has anything to do with the Bucket Brigade "we want our water" protests. It's labeled Bucket Brigade but it's more considered public art and is listed here: http://www.oregonartscommission.org/pdf/kfallspublicart.pdf

I take some more photos of the downtown area and then head back for Redding where my Mother-in-Law lives. Didn't get rained on too much. I didn't realize that Redding was so close to Klamath Falls, Oregon (about 2.5 hours on 97 and I5). All in all a fun adventure all inspired by a misconception. I think such places are inherent cautionary tales as its heyday lasted just 20 years. A lesson in non-sustainability that they are working on learning, they have beauty on their side, but the adaptation is clearly painful and hopefully they'll come out the other side wiser, despite the efforts of the Bucket Brigade. Oh and sorry: No falls. That was bulldozed by progress. Oops.

Downtown Klamath Falls.

Clouds over Butte Valley, CA on return.


Zucchini Breath said...

HAHA! Yep, that happens a lot from what I hear. Thanks for the story!

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