Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Week in Tulelake

The time has come to start our southward migration. Although we could have stayed longer in Sutherlin, we decided to slowly start moving. Our first stop was in Redding where we had a minor adjustment made to the custom motorcycle seat we had made there a month ago. On the way down past Shasta Lake we came upon a forest fire that had just started. Already huge trees were ablaze right along the highway. They had already closed the northbound lanes of the interstate, but we managed to get through on the southbound lanes with no problem. It was as close to a forest fire as we ever want to be.

Our appointment was for Monday morning but we arrived Friday afternoon and spent a couple nights in a nice RV park just north of town. The weather was so different just 200 miles from where we left. The highs in Sutherlin were in the 70's and it was still over 90 in Redding. We quickly decided we did not want to move further south yet, so after the seat was adjusted on Monday morning, we headed for Tulelake, CA.

Tulelake is a tiny farming community in the Klamath Valley, just 4 miles south of the Oregon border. It gets its name from Tule Lake, an ancient shallow lake that was mostly drained in the early 1900's by the Bureau of Reclamation and turned into rich farmland. This huge, shallow, marshy lake was a major stop on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds, and they reduced it to approximately one sixth of its original size. Steps were subsequently taken to accommodate the birds, and there are now several wildlife sanctuaries in the valley. They have even worked out a beneficial system where various fields are flooded periodically to rejuvenate them, and the farmers in turn grow grains in such a way as to provide food for the birds.

There really are a lot of birds on the lake. They estimate that about 250,000 ducks are in residence at the moment, but on an annual basis over 2,000,000 migrating geese, ducks and others call this area home for part of each year. It is interesting to see how it has all worked out to the benefit of the farmers and the birds. We visited the Visitor Center at the Wildlife Refuge, and hiked the nature trail through the marshes as well as the trail up Sheepy Ridge to the observation hut that was built by the CCC in the 30's.

The other major thing of interest in the area is Lava Beds National Monument. We first visited here about 35 years ago. It is a major volcanic area with much to see and do. We visited splatter cones, vents, lava flows, and the most interesting features, lava tubes. There are dozens of lava tubes open to explore. Some of them are over 3,000 feet long. You have to take your own lights and be willing to walk, duck walk, or crawl on hands and knees to get through some of them, but they are interesting and fun to explore. While they have not changed in 35 years, our stamina certainly has. Duck walking is not nearly as easy as it was back then. Still, we had fun exploring.

We also visited a separate area of the monument that used to be an island in the center of Tule Lake. It has one of the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the country. It was apparently used by some very ancient people as many of the glyphs are thousands of years old. There are approximately 5,000 drawings along a quarter mile band where they visited the cliff face in their canoes.

The other thing of interest in Lava Beds is the history of the Modoc Wars. The Modoc were one of the last Native American groups to be rounded up and forcibly moved off their ancestral homelands. However, they did not go without a fight. The last battles were fought in an area of the lava beds named Captain Jack's Stronghold. The volcanic formations provided an almost impenetrable fortress for the Modoc to hold off the soldiers. They were captured only after they left the stronghold, and they were relocated to Oklahoma.

We have been very busy this past week, but it is time to move on. We have been staying at the Butte Valley Fairgrounds RV park in Tulelake, which has been a very laid back and pretty place to stay. Tomorrow we plan to move south toward Nevada, but not very quickly. It's still way to hot further south.


  1. It all sounds like so much fun--not excitement fun that makes your heart pound (except crawling through lava tubes) but fun seeing all the unusual, interesting things in this great land. I wish that we could have seen them all, especially the Sheepy Ridge. What a picture that conjures.

  2. Betty has said she wants to visit the lava beds someday.

    Stay north as today it's going to be in the mid 100's here and tomorrow it's supposed to be 108.

  3. I think I'll stay north too. It's too hot for the first of October! Still triple digits this week. So lucky you to be able to follow the cooler weather.

    We had fun viewing the lava beds and (short) tubes in Hawaii. Amazing stuff! Kilauea was active when we were there in 1983.