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Klamath County, Oregon

Klamath County is a county located in the U.S. State of Oregon. It was named for the tribe of Native Americans living in the area at the time the first white explorers entered the region, the Klamaths. As of 2000, the population is 63,775.


Historically, Klamath County's economy has been based on timber and agriculture, as well as serving as a distribution center. These industries were vitally asisted in the early 1900s with the coming of the railroad and the start of one of the most successful of all federal reclamation projects--the Klamath Project, which drained much of the 128 square mile Lower Klamath Lake to provide 188,000 acres of irrigable land. Starting in the summer of 2001, the water resources for this project have been insufficient to meet both wildlife and farming needs, and the local rainfall has been insufficient.

The Bureau of Land Management concluded that the language of the Endangered Species Act gave priority use of water to the sucker fish of the Klamath Lakes and the wild salmon of the Klamath River, and cut off water deliveries to 1,400 farmers of the Klamath Project. This resulted in numerous demonstrations and farm-related bankrupcies.

In the following summer, there was once again insufficient water for both irrigation and wildlife. The Bush administration ruled that farmers would this time receive preference for water use. As a result, the temperature of the Klamath River water greatly increased, leading to the deaths of 32,000 salmon, affecting commercial and local Native American treaty fishing. Many conservation groups have criticized this decision.

In June, 2003, Bureau of Reclamation officials have informed farmers in the Klamath project that they must reduce water use by 25% through July to avoid another repeat of this crisis. Complicating the situation, farmers and ranchers who have been diverting water flowing into the Upper Klamath Lake are not subject to the restrictions of the Endangered Species Act.

Natural geothermal hot wells provide heat for many homes, businesses and the Oregon Institute of Technology campus. The full potential of this energy resource continues to be studied. Recreation in the form of hunting and other outdoor activities, and the tourist appeal of Oregon's only national park at Crater Lake also contributes to the economy.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 15,892 km² (6,136 mi²). 15,395 km² (5,944 mi²) of it is land and 496 km² (192 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.12% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 63,775 people, 25,205 households, and 17,290 families residing in the county. The population density is 4/km² (11/mi²). There are 28,883 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (5/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 87.33% White, 0.63% Black or African American, 4.19% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 3.45% from other races, and 3.47% from two or more races. 7.78% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 25,205 households out of which 30.30% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.20% are married couples living together, 10.00% have a female householder with no husband present, and 31.40% are non-families. 25.30% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.40% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.49 and the average family size is 2.95.

In the county, the population is spread out with 25.80% under the age of 18, 8.60% from 18 to 24, 25.50% from 25 to 44, 25.20% from 45 to 64, and 14.90% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 100.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $31,537, and the median income for a family is $38,171. Males have a median income of $32,052 versus $22,382 for females. The per capita income for the county is $16,719. 16.80% of the population and 12.00% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 22.40% are under the age of 18 and 7.70% are 65 or older.


The Klamath or "Clamitte" tribe of Indians, for which Klamath County was named, has had a presence for 10,000 years. White settlement began in 1846 along the Applegate Immigrant Trail, which precipitated clashes between the two cultures, and led to the Modoc War of 1872. The Oregon Legislature created Klamath County on October 17, 1882, from the western part of Lake County. Linkville, later known as Klamath Falls, was named county seat.

A treaty was signed with the Klamaths on October 14, 1864, which led to the establishment of the Klamath Reservation. At various times over the next 40 years, different individuals of the Modoc tribe were settled within the reservation. Because of the extensive tracts of forest, the Klamaths were very well off as a people until the termination of the reservation by the U.S. government in 1954. As a result, much of the money received as a result of the termination was lost due to theft or criminal deception, resulting in increased poverty and loss of tribal identity.

A few of the Klamath refused to accept the buyout money, most notably Edison Choloquin (1924 - 2003). Instead of the cash, he insisted on receiving the title to ancestral land along the Sprague River where he lived. On December 5, 1980, the Chiloquin Act was signed into law, giving him title to the properties he wanted.

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