Adventures at Fort Klamath and Kimball State Park
Thanks to a friend, Lane and I recently discovered an enchanting place — Jackson F. Kimball State Park outside of Fort Klamath.
The headwaters of the Wood River bubble out of the mountain there, and this pristine river sparkles turquoise in the sun. The day looked ripping for a drive, and we were jazzed. Giovani the Honda needed a wash, so he was primed for another layer of dust and several flying insects.
It’s a tad over an hour to Fort Klamath by taking the Volcanic Scenic Highway to the left off of Highway 140 near Rocky Point. A word to the wise — people speed on Highway 140. I exceed the speed limit (slightly), and they stack up behind me like I’m driving a combine.
We always look forward to a scoot over the Cascades to the wild, wild east. Aspens are shimmering. Odessa Market and gas has reopened, while restrooms at the sno-park remain closed.
The road to Fort Klamath is a scenic delight through Ponderosa pines and aspen, which opens wide into cattle country. FK is a rustic community located between Crater and Upper Klamath lakes. The fort was used as an Army post from 1863-90, but the actual site and museum are about a mile southeast of the community. None of the original 50 buildings exist.
Much of the area is a ghost town, but there’s a vintage Methodist church complete with steeple and a welcome sign for Sunday services. Jo’s Motel is still putting people up, usually on their way to and from Crater Lake about 45 minutes north. A quick look at their reviews proved entertaining. Rules are the thing. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, apparently.
We approached the adjacent organic store for some tea and chocolate, read the list of expectations posted clearly on the door, adjusted our masks, didn’t have any kids in tow (not allowed inside), rang the bell, and had no problems with the proprietor.
After snapping a few shots of the original — and most likely haunted — hotel across the street, we continued through town to where the road curves left, then turned right onto Dixon Road. We remained on Dixon until we saw the sign for Jackson F. Kimball State Park on the left.
Jackson Kimball served as a district forest warden for the Klamath-Lake Forest Protective Association from 1908 until his death in 1944. His namesake is an intimate space situated within Sun Pass alongside the gorgeous Wood River. It’s perfect for getting away from it all in a maintained yet primitive setting, as in no hook-ups in the 12 camp spots. It’s free for day-use and perfect for the kayaker or fisherman, offering rainbow, brook, brown and Great Basin red band trout.
There’s a sign posted for the headwaters, a few steps over a small bridge. The outflowing water is crystalline, and no wonder. The aquifer that feeds the spring is believed to originate from the east side drainage of Crater Lake National Park 20 miles away.
Lane tapped my shoulder and I followed his gaze to our first sight of the Wood River. I couldn’t help tearing up when I saw the vivid turquoise water flowing between banks of evergreens on a blue sky canvas. It seemed unreal — like a magical land from a vintage tale.
We ate lunch at a picnic table near the river, while music from the trees’ hush and an occasional bird or a child’s delighted voice serenaded us. I headed to the car to retrieve my binoculars. I’d caught a glimpse of what I thought was a pileated woodpecker — the Robert Barone of woodpecker society (huge). I hoped to get a better look. I did. A red-capped missile flew directly in front of me, landing in a nearby tree. I also spied a white-headed woodpecker (sensitive species) jigging along a small tree by the water.
Needless to say, I look forward to returning.
Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author/nerd. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.