Butte Valley Wildlife Area/Meiss Lake
Butte Valley Wildlife Area exploration description by Wendell Wood
The Butte Valley Wildlife Area (BVWA) is a diverse, 13,200 acre California State Wildlife Area acquired in 1981 with Federal Land and Water Conservation Funds. Headed south on Hwy. 97, rather than turning east on to Stateline Rd. for Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs, continue on 14 miles south of Stateline Rd. from the Calif./Oregon border to Meiss Lake Rd. At .4 mile after the Texaco gas station in Macdoel, turn right at a sign for the Wildlife Area. From this intersection it is:
5.2 mile to the tour route dike across Meiss Lake;
6.5 mile to the refuge headquarters;
7.7 mile to the turn off to the left for Juanita Lake Campground;
8.4 miles to School House Rd. on the left (Hiking route on the edge of the oak woodland above the Wildlife Area, a portion is generally closed to public entry.).
The south end of Meiss Lake and a pond at the north end is open to non-motorized watercraft; however the area is closed from March 1-September 1. The window of opportunity to canoe here, after the waterfowl season closes, begins around the third weekend in January, until March 1. Plan a trip some "warm winter day" in February! In the fall certain days of the week are open or closed for hunting during the hunting season, be sure to check the schedule.
Another interesting place to bird (or stay during the summer) is around a small reservoir called Juanita Lake. The sign for Juanita Campground (turnoff noted above) says it is 2 miles to the campground; however, it is actually 3 miles. The campground has 22 campsites for $8.00 a night or a group campground for $15.00. Another “dry” camping option (in a beautiful meadow surrounded by nice trees on Forest Service land) is available if you continue on the lower (main) road for .8 mile after the Juanita Lake turnoff. Bear left at the next turn off (marked M 1), bear right again in .2 mile, and after crossing a cattle guard. Park at this intersection, walk down hill 200 feet, and bear slightly to the left into a half acre meadow.
The Butte Valley Wildlife Area contains a terrific variety of habitats on the edge of a mostly alkali basin. Meiss Lake is 3,750 acres, crossed by a dike open to automobiles, with additional dikes closed to motor vehicles. In addition to 14 vegetative communities, an agriculture type for wildlife food and cover production has been identified on this refuge based on R. Holland (1986) “Preliminary descriptions of the terrestrial natural communities of California.” Those identified are: Transmontane Alkali Marsh, Transmontane Freshwater Marsh, Vernal Marshes, Alkali Meadows, Montane Meadows, Montane Riparian Forest, Montane Riparian Scrub, Sierran Mixed Conifer Forest, Eastside Ponderosa Pine forest, Oregon Oak Woodland, Northern Juniper Woodland, Great Basin Grassland, Big Sagebrush Scrub, and Rabbitbrush Scrub. Organized groups will have to make special arrangement to with the refuge manager to enter the Oregon Oak Woodland and other special habitat areas. Theses areas are, for the most part, closed to public entry so as not to disturb wildlife and protect archeological sites.
Two-hundred species of birds have been
identified on the refuge, many more occur on the Klamath
National Forest near Juanita Lake
(where there is a Forest Service Campground, described above). Forest
species here include Blue Grouse, Black-backed Woodpeckers and Gray Jays. Other sensitive wildlife species to be see at
BVWA, include Bald Eagle (up to 75 on a winter roost on adjacent Forest Service
lands); Greater Sandhill Crane (4
nesting pairs); Swainson’s Hawk (highest density in Klamath Basin occur in
Butte Valley area--up to 70 pairs); American Peregrine Falcon (infrequent
visitor that feeds on waterfowl and other refuge birds).
photo by Brett Cole
In addition, the refuge contains the fourth largest California Gull nesting colony in California. Twelve other species of special concern (one plant, one reptile, nine birds and one mammal) have been found at BVWA.