A snowshoer treks through the snow at Running Y Ranch Resort. Photo by Lee Juillerat

Skiing and snowshoeing the Klamath Basin

It doesn't happen every winter, but this year is one of those times when snow lovers are finding places to cross-country ski and snowshoe in or near Klamath Falls.

On a recent late afternoon, I realized I'd spent too much time inside, so I headed for the nearby Klamath Wingwatchers Trail.

I made first tracks, immediately passing alongside Lake Ewauna, cluttered with thousands of birds — some resting like frozen statues on open water, equal numbers sitting motionless on iced-over areas.

Soon the trail forked, following Lake Ewauna on one side, a series of ponds on the other. Instead of taking the loop back, I followed the trail to its junction with the new Ken Hay Trail. The west side passes more ponds, while the east side flanks Highway 97. Near the South Portal Building, home of Discover Klamath, I did a 180, following my tracks back to the junction, carving new tracks on the unskied loop and returning to the trailhead.

But I wasn't finished. Since I had broken trail, my just reward was enjoying those groomed tracks, so back around the big circle I skied. Again the lake and skies were filled with birds, including delightful flights of noisily honking Canada geese. But I hoped for more. Upward of 500 bald eagles typically winter in the Klamath Basin, the largest concentration in the lower 48 states. But I hadn't seen any yet, not even on the 80-foot tall eagle perch near Lake Ewauna. Because eagles typically leave their perches when daylight fades, I figured I was out of luck.

But then, seemingly waiting for me was a regal eagle atop the perch. As I stopped and gawked, his eyes focused on me.

"Satisfied?" he seemed to ask, then he spread his wings and soared high, gliding out of sight.

Winter in Klamath Falls isn't necessarily a time to stay indoors.

For people living in or near Klamath Falls, or visiting for a day or weekend, here are recommendations for places to ski or snowshoe.

Moore Park

When the snow is abundant, there's no place better to ski or snowshoe than Moore Park. The 458-acre city park has soccer fields, tennis courts, restrooms, children's play equipment, a disc golf course and miles of paved roads and signed trails. When the snow flies, roads closed to motor vehicles and trails offer a variety of terrain good for everyone from first-timers to veteran cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Some of the best routes follow or branch off from the Eulolana and Ridgeview trails. Sightings of bald eagles, deer and migrating ducks and geese are common.

Link River Trail

Located along Moore Park's south flank is the 1-1/2-mile-long Link River Trail, which follows the river's west side from Upper Klamath Lake to Lake Ewauna. Expect frequent sightings of winter birds and ducks, including night-crowned night herons, hooded mergansers and Barrow's goldeneye.

Wing Watchers Trail

Lake Ewauna and a series of bird-popular ponds are the scenic highlights along the Klamath Wingwatchers Trail. A 1.3-mile loop trail provides views of the lake and several ponds, where it's common to see hundreds of resting ducks and geese. Winter is a good time to see gulls, redtail hawks, kestrels, mallards, robins, ruddy ducks, sparrows and, most impressive of all, bald eagles. Completed last year, the mile-long Ken Hay Trail connects with the Wingwatchers Trail from the Klamath County Visitor Center off Highway 97. Skiers and snowshoers can combine the trails for a longer loop.

Running Y Ranch Resort-Skillet Handle

There's no better way to enjoy a sunny wintery day than cross-country skiing or snowshoeing along wide-open sections of the Running Y Ranch Resort just outside Klamath Falls. During snowy periods, the golf course's clubhouse is the gateway to miles of dikes that border marshes. Depending on conditions and individual whims, it's easy to gently ski or snowshoe one or two easy miles or spend several hours kicking and gliding five to 10 or more miles.

It's possible to access the Skillet Handle Trail, which meanders 2.5 miles along a peninsula, from the clubhouse or, more directly, from a parking area near Upper Klamath Lake. A mostly gentle ski, the trail travels through a forest of Ponderosa pine, juniper and Western white oak.

— Reach Lee Juillerat at juilleratlee1@gmail.com or 541-880-4139.

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