Explore the Diverse Wildlife of Tule Lake in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Tule Lake Refuge, established in 1928, rests in the fertile and intensely farmed Tule Lake Basin in Modoc County. The almost 40-thousand-acre refuge encompasses drier uplands, wetlands and farm land. The refuge is home the the endangered shortnose and Lost River sucker fish.

The area serves as a staging area for migrating waterfowl during spring and fall. It is used primarily by Whitefronted, Snow, Ross, and Cackling Canada geese, all of which nest in the Arctic tundra. A 10-mile auto tour route from Tule Lake allows for wildlife observation throughout the year.

Viewing Refuge Wildlife

The Klamath Basin NWRs offer excellent, year-round wildlife observation opportunities. Auto tour routes are available at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges while Silver Lake Road at Klamath Marsh Refuge also affords good viewing. Self-guided canoe tour routes are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. A 10-mile walking and bicycle trail meandering by the marshland and through the forested upland is available at Klamath Marsh refuge. Exceptional viewing of early morning bald eagle flyouts from their winter roost at Bear Valley Refuge is available just outside the refuge. More information on the refuges and facilities is available from the Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center (directions below).

Binoculars, a spotting scope, and wildlife field guides will enhance your viewing experience if you opt to walk, bike or drive around the the area.

Wildlife Photography

Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  Please visit our Photography blind information page for more information.


From California: Head north on Interstate 5 to Weed, CA, then northeast 45 miles on Highway 97 to the Oregon Border. Take Stateline Road (Hwy. 161) east towards Tulelake, CA to Hill Road. Turn south on Hill Road. The visitor center is located 4 miles south on Hill Rd. 

Stop by the Refuge Headquarters and Visitor Center when you first arrive. Refuge wildlife is colorfully described by exhibits and information regarding viewing opportunities, recent sightings, road conditions, and regulations is available. A non-profit bookstore offers wildlife-oriented books and other items.



Upland habitat is just what it says it is, up-land. It is slightly higher in elevation and does not have water above ground. There are a variety of plants that are found in the upland areas of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge such as green sage brush, rabbit brush and other native shrubs and grasses. There is also a large variety of animals that use the upland habitat.  Rabbits and rattlesnakes are common in the area, but at one time the greater sage grouse and big horn sheep dominated the area. Click here for a current list of species found in the upland areas of Tule Lake Nationals Wildlife Refuge. 


At one time, people thought wetlands were useless and most of the original Tule Lake basin was drained for development. They soon found that Wetlands benefit nearly everyone including all the animals within the refuge. Some of the common animals that are found on Tule Lake wetland areas are beavers, raccoons, muskrats and river otters. But mammals are not the only ones who benefit from wetlands, birds such as bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, kingfishers and waterfowl also benefit from the wetlands.

For an area to be considered a wetland it must have 3 things, water, wetland plants and wetland soils.  The dense cover provides a perfect nesting and the tubers and seeds growing within the wetland provide and excellent food source for many. 


Grain crops provide an excellent source of nutrition for migrating waterfowl in the cold winter months. Other species also benefit from the grain crops as a food source such as deer and other upland birds. The refuge regulates mow much of the refuge in is crop rotation every year keeping a balance between seasonal wetlands and farm fields. 

For more information about Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Tule_Lake/about.html

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