This website is dedicated to the preservation of the Skillet Handle.
Updated February 2012
The Running Y Ranch Resort was established in Klamath Falls, Oregon as a destination resort in 1995. In the Destination Resort Overlay 1-94 [PDF],, the developers, Jeld-Wen Inc, stated that the Skillet Handle would remain undeveloped and be set aside with a conservation easement in perpetuity. However, during the real estate bubble of 2004, the Skillet Handle came close to being developed. Residents of Running Y filed a lawsuit in an effort to halt the plan to develop the area for residential lots. Although the residents did not prevail in their lawsuit, the plan was delayed long enough so that development was no longer economically feasible. The Skillet Handle could still be developed as no conservation easement has been recorded on the property. In 2010, Running Y Ranch Resort was sold to new owners, Northview Hotel Group. In a fortunate turn of events, Northview Hotel Group, realizing the benefits of the migratory bird populations passing through the area to the resort, has expressed an interest in conserving the Skillet Handle in some way.
Attributes of the Skillet Handle
The Skillet Handle is a ruggedly beautiful peninsula of forested upland that is located on the west shoreline of the Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon. See map. On the east side of the Cascades, the Skillet Handle is within the Klamath Basin Watershed, a mid-elevation valley at approximately 4,000 feet. A region that historically had numerous wetlands, the Skillet Handle was bordered by the lake on the east side and the wetlands of the Caledonia Marsh on the west side. The Caledonia Marsh was reclaimed in the early 1900’s for farmland by the construction of a dike. When the Running Y Ranch Resort was created from agriculture/forest zoned land in 1995, construction of wetland areas in the Caledonia Marsh were part of the mitigation for the resort and thought to be part of the eco-tourism vision for the resort. However, most of the wetlands are no longer present in the Caledonia Marsh as the owners of the resort acquired approval for off-site mitigation for the resort after the breach of the dike occurred in June of 2006. The dike was repaired and in 2011, the farmland of the Caledonia Marsh was sold to a consortium of farmers. The new owners of the Caledonia Marsh may institute a “Walking Wetlands” approach to the Caledonia Marsh property which would increase numbers of migratory birds that stop off in the immediate area.
A Valuable Habitat for Migratory Birds
At 335 acres, the Skillet Handle contains woodlands of huge Oregon White Oaks and Ponderosa Pine. These mixed oak woodlands are a high priority habitat in the Klamath Basin Watershed as reported in the 1998 Oregon Natural Heritage Plan [PDF],, and have an important role in the ecosystem of migratory birds. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway pass through the Klamath Basin. The Skillet Handle in its unique location by the lake, farmlands, and wetland remnants has the elements that can attract abundant wildlife. The Klamath Basin has the densest wintering concentration of bald eagles in the world. In the winter months bald eagles and other birds of prey are sighted over the Skillet Handle and reach peak numbers in the area in February. In mid-February the Klamath Basin area hosts the Winter Wings Festival, a wonderful guided opportunity to observe and photograph birds of the area.
In addition, the Skillet Handle contains valuable sites of historical and cultural significance. Indigenous people of the area lived on the Skillet Handle and nearby on the Resort in the past. Remnants of their cultural rituals still stand throughout the Resort in the form of placed rock cairns. These cairns, many only one rock high were associated with the vision quest ritual. The vision quest ritual of the indigenous people of the Klamath Basin was documented in 1930 by Leslie Spier in his monograph titled “Klamath Ethnography.”
Educational Opportunities for Students
The local schools of Klamath Falls have used the Skillet Handle for field trips to educate young people about nature and biological principles. Klamath County Students have also used the Skillet Handle for art and photography projects.
Open Space for Recreation and Appreciation of Nature
This delightful area also is a great resource within the resort for recreation in that it provides a lovely natural area to mountain bike and hike. In the winter months it serves as a great place to cross country ski and snow shoe.
Take a look at this wonderful place through the slide show.