Caledonia Ranch – Working to preserve a woodland treasure.
The Caledonia Ranch along Upper Klamath Lake in south central Oregon represents one of the last remaining stands of Oregon white oak in the southern part of the state, east of the Cascades. These oak woodlands represent perhaps the most important habitat for terrestrial migratory birds in the area. As the ranch sits directly in the path of the Pacific Flyway, it is clearly a pivotal area for numerous bird species.
As today’s heirs of this historic ranch, the Geary families have recognized the special importance of their childhood playground. The 300 acres of the historic, several thousand-acre ranch that remain have become the focus of their conservation efforts. Having grown up regularly vacationing or residing on this special landscape, they have come to recognize its importance not only to them, but to the community as a whole.
The ranch came into their family through inheritance in 1918 and was run as a cattle ranch, timber operation, and grass seed business for over 50 years by four brothers, Edward, Arthur, Everet and Roland Geary. Their operation was well known throughout the Upper Klamath Basin, as it was a significant economic contributor to the 20th century era of agriculture for which that the Basin became known. Grass seed growing and cattle production were the primary operations, though logging was also a component in the 1920’s & 30’s. By 1936, most of the land’s wooded areas had been logged heavily.
Years later, much of the land became prized for its development value with its close proximity to Upper Klamath Lake. A portion of the historic ranch was sold and passed through various hands before becoming the Running Y Resort and Lodge in the 1990’s. The resort and associated Arnold Palmer Golf Course are now well known as tourist destinations. Other nearby areas were also sought out for their value in creating home sites with beautiful lakefront vistas.
Today, three daughters of those hard working Geary brothers have partnered to create a management plan to restore and protect the special white oak and conifer forest on their inherited land. As very few oaks remain in the Klamath Basin relative to their original range, conservation of this area is especially important for preserving the unique oak woodland ecology. Despite having received significant offers from developers over the years, the Geary families have embraced the higher value the woodlands hold for the community as a conserved wildlife refuge and birding area. While maintaining a vacation home there, the family has graciously opened up the property for numerous community tours. The local Audubon Society chapter has made birding visits and hosted tours through the local annual birding festival known as Winter Wings. Oregon Institute of Technology and other educational institutions have utilized the property for research. Much of it is visible from the lake and nearby highway as part of the beautiful forest view shed rising from Upper Klamath Lake’s western shores. Residents and visitors of the neighboring Running Y Resort and neighborhood have no doubt enjoyed many of the birds and other wildlife that remain in the area, at least in part due to the preservation of this 300 acre treasure. Bald eagles, a major tourist draw to the Basin, have regularly nested and raised young among the towering pines that shelter the oaks. The community is clearly indebted to the Geary’s for their generous choice to conserve this land.
In exploring conservation options, the Geary families have collaborated with the Klamath Lake Land Trust and another nearby landowner to apply for the Forest Legacy Program. This funded conservation easement arrangement through the Oregon Department of Forestry and US Forest Service will enable them not only to retain the property as the beautiful woodland that it is, but also to be assured that this place of special family memories through generations past will be preserved for generations to come. The Klamath Lake Land Trust has welcomed the opportunity to facilitate their application to the Forest Legacy Program and explore various conservation options. The partnership and its associated conservation efforts stand as a model for others in the community, who may recognize the importance of preserving exceptional extant places, like the Caledonia woodlands.
Photos: The Geary daughters on the Caledonia ranch, 1940’s
Photo: The Caledonia Woodlands today