Head south on Highway 62 to paddle brilliant blue waters, camp, and learn local history
Crater Lake National Park is at the top of many visitors’ bucket lists while traveling in Southern Oregon, but its gateway communities on Highways 62 and 97 on the southeastern side of the park open up even more outdoor fun. Plan to stay awhile and explore the crystal-blue waters of area lakes and rivers, or enjoy the art and culture of communities like Chiloquin and Fort Klamath.
Paddle Spring-Fed Waterways
Wood River and Spring Creek — two aquamarine, spring-fed waterways in Chiloquin — are a delight. Paddle or fish these calm waters, enjoying views of far-off mountains, evergreen forests and waterfowl as they swim and play. Wood River’s headwaters start at Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site, just a 30-minute drive from Crater Lake. Spring Creek is located 20 minutes from there, behind the Collier Memorial State Park and Logging Museum off of Highway 97. Visit early and/or during the week to avoid crowds as parking is limited, especially at Wood River.
If you don’t have your own watercraft, Sky Lakes Wilderness Adventures in Chiloquin has rentals. They also offer private tours all over the area including launch points at Wood River, Spring Creek, Rocky Point, Sprague River and more.
Railroad History and a Civil War-Era Fort
Fort Klamath Museum and Park is an 8-acre museum just 5 miles up from the Wood River headwaters. It features a Modoc warrior graveyard, an 1800s jailhouse and a post office that you can tour at your own pace. A volunteer is on-site to converse about the artifacts you see in the guard house. There is also a picnic area under huge trees.
At the Collier Logging Museum just north of Chiloquin on Highway 97, you’ll learn the role the railroad played in logging while you go on a self-guided tour of the grounds, viewing the gigantic machines that helped build the communities of the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a relocated pioneer village complete with a blacksmith and period houses that demonstrate how Oregon families once lived.
Before you leave the Chiloquin area, shop for gifts at Two Rivers Art Gallery & Gift Shop in the Chiloquin Community Center. Handily, it’s also the town’s visitor center and staffed by friendly people who know the area well. Learn more about the history and culture of local Klamath tribes by viewing paintings, photography and jewelry as well as the delicate arts of basket making and pine-needle art.
Take the Kids to Play
Train Mountain Railroad Museum is on the outskirts of Chiloquin and just three minutes from the main part of town. It’s the world’s largest private caboose collection and is listed in Guinness World Records as the “World’s Longest Miniature Railroad.” On weekdays you take yourself on a self-guided tour, and if you visit during the summer, Klamath and Western Railroad offers free rides on their model trains on Saturdays Memorial Day through July.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, check out the adventures at Crater Lake ZipLine, 40 minutes from Crater Lake and just 30 minutes from Chiloquin. It not only offers zip lining for big kids and adults, it also has Sasquatch Hollow, a course just for kids 5 to 12 years old where they can climb, slide and zip line the varied course as many times as they want in 90 minutes. There’s even an option to add on time for them to continue to play while the adults zip line the larger course that takes two hours. It also offers guided kayak trips, rentals and axe throwing.
Stay and Camp
Paddlers might choose Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site at the headwaters of the Wood River, just 30 minutes from Crater Lake National Park in Fort Klamath. It’s open for primitive camping and day use from April through October.
For glamping, cabins, tent and RV sites, try Crater Lake Resort, 30 minutes from Crater Lake in Fort Klamath, located on Fort Creek. As a guest you can use complimentary canoes, hike along the creek or go fishing. There’s even a playground and outdoor game area.
Just minutes from the Collier Logging Museum and the Spring Creek Day-Use Area, Williamson River Campground is just over 45 minutes from Crater Lake and located right on the river. Enjoy miles of mountain biking or hiking trails and peaceful fishing holes.
Located along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Rocky Point Resort — about 50 minutes from Crater Lake in Rocky Point — offers a hotel, rustic cabins, and various RV and tent spots, as well as boat and paddleboard rentals. The boat launch shares the property, where you can paddle the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail or launch into Upper Klamath Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Oregon.