Sycan Marsh Preserve

A vast, mile-high wetland on the Pacific Flyway is home to thousands of birds and endangered fish.

About the preserve

This vast, verdant wetland in the upper reaches of the Klamath Basin is a key site for wetland research and restoration, and is home to thousands of nesting and migrating birds, threatened fish and newly discovered aquatic creatures. The preserve also includes upland forest.

Derived from the Klamath Indian term "saiga keni, Sycan means "level, grassy place.


In the headwaters of Southern Oregon's Klamath Basin, east of Crater Lake


30,539 acres

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Historically Sycan Marsh functioned as a giant sponge, soaking up the spring runoff and slowly releasing it into the Sycan River into the fall, but early 20th Century dikes and drains were drying it out. With agency and watershed partners, the Conservancy is restoring natural water flows to the system, revitalizing over 20,000 acres of wetlands.

In partnership with the historic ZX Ranch, which holds a grazing lease, the Conservancy is testing the compatibility of grazing practices with wetland restoration. The Jim Castles Applied Research Station, completed in 1997, provides research facilities for Conservancy scientists and meeting space for scientists and others to share research findings and restoration strategies.

Research includes radio telemetry studies of bull and redband trout migration and distribution patterns, studies of new species of mussel, lamprey, snails and other aquatic organisms, a botanical study of a highly unusual groundwater-fed fen, and breeding surveys of the elusive yellow rail. 

The preserve also includes upland forest areas, providing a new opportunity for forest restoration.

What to see: Plants

The wetland includes a variety of grasses from wooly sedge and marsh buttercup to common camas, once a food staple for Native Americans.

What to see: Animals

Sycan Marsh awakens in early spring to the wingbeats of up to 10,000 tundra swans arriving in their northward migration along the Pacific Flyway. Flocks of 40 other species of waterfowl and water birds, including white pelicans, Forster's terns and white-fronted geese, soon follow. Over 100 greater sandhill cranes return each year to nest on the marsh, as do black terns and yellow rails. Ducks breeding at the preserve include the cinnamon teal, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, redhead, canvasback, ring-necked duck, common merganser, wood duck and mallard. 

Bull trout and redband trout frequent the creeks that feed and traverse the marsh. The sedge-dominated marsh is also home to pronghorn antelope and many raptors, including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and goshawks.

There are no trails at Sycan Marsh, but you are welcome to download a self-guided auto tour brochure.

Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, camping or campfires.
  • For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
  • Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
  • Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).

For directions from Klamath Falls and La Pine, please download a self-guided auto tour brochure.


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