Resident’s guide to Fort Klamath, Ore.

On highway 62, less than 10 miles after it cuts off of Highway 97, travelers come to the small town known as Fort Klamath. Named after a fort that existed not far away, most people who pass through pay little attention to this quaint and beautiful location, because they are on their way to Crater Lake National Park. At most they may stop at the store for supplies, so many would probably be surprised at what they missed and why people love living in this out of the way place.

Fort Klamath is within the Wood River valley, and the river that bears the name flows through the town. The valley has the atmosphere of being a mountain meadow, and in fact this is primarily a cattle ranching town due to the rich grass that grows here in the fertile volcanic soil. More cattle can be raised per acre than in most places in the country, so though the valley isn’t large, there are often plenty of cattle.

The houses in this town are clustered together, for the most part, though some of them are located a couple miles outside of town. These are mostly single family dwellings. Some homes are robust and large, however. Yard sizes range from modest to hundreds of acres or more.

One of the endearing qualities of Fort Klamath, often written Ft. Klamath, is that there is an old-style sense of community. Almost everyone knows everyone, and most people are willing to help each other, whether that is to loan a cup of flour or sugar or to come to aid when it is needed.

There are a couple of motels, mostly to cater to the people who are on their way to the national park, less than 10 miles to the north. There are also viewpoints out of town where a person can see the mountains of the park from a southern, looking north, perspective. The view gives people a great idea of the magnitude of the park if they are going to see it.

This is a town that offers a great deal more, however. The valley is surrounded by trees, mostly Ponderosa pines. Within 10 miles in nearly any direction, a person can find themselves in the woods. Much of the forest is maintained by Winema National Forest.

There are also a number of places a family can camp, if they are so inclined. For example, Kimball State Park can be found just a few miles roughly north of town, on the head of the Wood River.

Kimball isn’t a large park, and it doesn’t offer such things as showers, however it is well maintained, with a number of sites that are a short walk from the crystal clear and cold water of the river, which contains trout.

If the goal is a less improved campsite, about eight miles from town and a mile and a half or so from the Crater Lake park boundary, is Annie Creek. There are several totally unimproved sites here for camping, and it is rarely crowded, though it is quite close to the creek, which also contains fish. Large cottonwoods, aspen, firs and pines give the area a great and relaxing feeling.

Fort Klamath has a great number of animal species for viewing. Mule deer, elk, and squirrels are plentiful. In this area, elk breed and the herds are frequently observable from close range. There are many song birds, grouse, geese, ducks, eagles and hawks here, too. For those who love wildlife photography, the opportunities to take pictures are close at hand.

People in town have even had great success with gardening, despite a growing season that isn’t long. A man named George Woodley had a tremendous garden every year for many years, including longer term vegetables, such as corn. The temperatures usually don’t get much above 85 F, however the soil is so rich that plants seem to grow easily.

Fort Klamath is a town that offers a great deal more than what is apparent at first glance. Still, it is hard not to fall in love with the friendly and laid back atmosphere that can almost give a person the feeling of stepping back in time by about a century.