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LAKEVIEW, Oregon A new ecomomy of MERCENARIES and PRISON

I spent much time in this tiny Eastern Oregon desert town. I have seen much change sweep over the town, but the newest "economic development" scam will change the landscape and the people forever. A new player in town is a mercenary training school. Along with the new prison, the town will likely be a new frontier in the emerging USA police state.
Lakeview Oregon is located on the California border about 100 miles east of Klamath Falls. It is a small town with little economic or cultural diversity. There are small communities of Native Americans, Hispanic forest workers, but mostly it's white folks who live there. The area is mostly treeless, (whole forests were decimated in the late 1800's and early 1900's). The natural deserted areas are absolutely beautiful. The town itself is billed as the "Tallest Town in Oregon" because of its elevation of 4,820 feet. Up until a few years ago most of the people who lived in Lakeview were ranchers, loggers, and isolationists: people trying to get away from the techno fast paced world.

I visited the town many times during my lifetime. Lakeview is full of my Irish immigrant relatives. I loved these visits. I loved to ride a horse across the wind swept desert, swim in the lakes and rivers, and work hard next to my cousins bucking hay or herding sheep. I learned much about surviving adversity from the refugees of the Irish Holocaust. In my childhood there was much racism and land grabbing against Native American communities. It was also a town where if you were white and poor you could start all over again and have a small bit of something. For some, if you were an insider, the struggle was not quite as hard as the outside world.

When I was a child there was still lots of water in Goose Lake: the namesake of the town. But almost a hundred years of deforestation and overusing water supplies to irrigate wide areas of field hay have drained most of the lake. There is little left of any economy and the local politicians are grabbing at anything they can to keep the town alive.

THE PLAN - ECONOMIC DARKNESS - prisons and mercenaries

Lakeview politicians have had plans before. In the fifties they encouraged the nuclear weapons industry to come mine the heavy veins of uranium. The mining companies came to town for a short time. They discovered the veins of Uranium were not that deep. They left town quickly leaving behind piles of uranium tailings that blew across the farmland and town contaminating everything. People in the town, including the children began to experience high levels of leukemia: cancer of the blood. The whole dirty story was hushed up. The towns people did not want to loose the summer tourist trade.

Now the powers that be have a new economic plan for this dying town. Prisons and mercenaries.

In the 1990's the governor of Oregon hatched a plan to build 6 new prisons in Oregon. Lakeview was chosen as one of the prisons sites. New people moved to town. People who worked for the Prison Industrial complex and outside construction companies. The project was touted as a boon to the city and the county. Towns people were told the prison would only house minimum-security prisoners and bring local jobs to the county. The towns people are not prepared for the onslaught of corporate prison guards or the families who will follow prisoners.


There were always people hiding in the outback that were just a little bit strange. My own relatives sought out this isolated area of the America to make a new start after experiencinng severe discrimation as Irish Immigrants. The towns people of Lakeview talked about them and kept their distance. Some of these people had been badly scared by society and just wanted to be left alone. It was a given. About 20 years ago small mercenary compounds began to appear in the desert of Lake County and in the Steens Mountains. There was even a compound to train mercenaries to fight in Afghanistan. These ventures were kept under wrap. Now, they are be touted as the next best thing to a gold strike. And the town welcomes the business.

Here's what the Associated Press wrote for newspapers across Oregon recently

"Smith, 55, and his wife, Heidi, 37, are relocating Thunder Ranch, their Texas-based tactical shooting school, to an 886-acre ranch in remote Lake County on the California border. It will open in February in a county with high unemployment and limited tourism.

In a more urban community, the influx of hundreds of gun-toting strangers might cause some concern. But Ray Simms, adviser to Lake County's Board of Commissioners, doubts it will cause undue alarm, especially during hunting season.

"Out here for the most part, every other pickup going down the road this time of year has a rifle in the window," he says.

The 11-year-old Thunder Ranch in Texas is the largest among dozens of tactical shooting schools across the nation, says firearms expert Roy Huntington of San Diego, editor of American Handgunner and Guns magazines and a longtime friend of the Smiths. " (The entire article can be seen at  link to www.oregonlive.com

Mr. Smith is a major player in training Navy SEAL's, Delta Force Operators and assorted civilians (and hired killers of the School of the Americas). He is hoping to cash in on the new prison economy of Oregon. He has strong ties to Whackenhut - a major prison contractor in America. Here is another quote from the AP story about Smith:

"Smith is regarded as something of an iconoclast in the shooting fraternity, says Huntington, (editor of American Handgunner and Guns magazines and a longtime friend of the Smiths.) "The proprietor of Thunder Ranch regards handguns, even powerful .45 caliber pistols, as poor fighting instruments and prefers rifles because the bullets hit harder."

Is Lakeview is about to become another training site for the public and private police armies?...plus anyone wanting to take up a gun to enforce their cause. In Lakeview, military and police teams will train at the ranch. The local politicians says this will give Lakeview a new economic face. Together with the new prison, Lakeview has just become a fortress unto itself. Gun selling shops are beginning to move in and replace the once thriving old west theme restaurants and gift shops. Survivalists are beginning to address Lakeview as the new frontier.

One more interesting fact about Lakeview. As the water dries up there has been an increase in small earthquake swarms. Some locals believe that the underground aquifers are all but gone and there are a number of sinkholes beginning to appear in the geology. In effect, the ground is collapsing. The whole area is a natural hot geological area. Hot water from natural the natural volcano lakes region is rising up and drinking and irrigation water is disappearing from wells and streams. Few locals are willing to address the earthquake swarms. They blame the lack of water on Environmentalists who are somehow keeping the water from flowing to their ranches, farms and houses.

Link to cool earthquake monitoring site - Look at the yellow boxes on the border of California. That would be Lakeview:  http://www.geophys.washington.edu/recenteqs/

Other interesting Links


Western Prison Project -  http://www.westernprisonproject.org/index.html

Interesting study of how Prisons are being built with state tax dollars -  link to www.westernprisonproject.org

Link to tourism site on Lakeview. Lots of pics of the area:  http://www.lakevieworegon.us/Tour/Tour10.html

Great Report, Z! 07.Nov.2004 12:25

Eye Pea Freely

I have spent some time down that way myself. I was aware of the new prison, but not very aware of the mercenary training activities.

With a mix of geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass energy, the Lakeview/Klamath Falls region has the potential to be a substantial alternative power producer. Their location makes them as an attractive option for exporting clean electricity to California at grossly inflated prices.

Good Article, Z ! 07.Nov.2004 16:33

indy reader

we need more reporting on rural Oregon - and rural America - like this.

Thanks for the report Z 07.Nov.2004 21:21

another reader

I saw the original article on thunder ranch in the Oregonian and was concerned. You make some great conections between the prisons and the gun range. The part about the nuclear waste is just sad. Is it still out there?

hope 07.Nov.2004 23:17

king friday

hm. well we can only hope the uranium cancer and defects consume the population in a timely manner then.

0 tolerance for imbeciles and the right wing maniacs what drive them.

groundwater -- references PLEASE? Here's info on some 03.Apr.2005 16:37


I'd sure appreciate some references for the geology/geothermal/groundwater information -- I can't find it online. Is this anecdotal about groundwater drying up and geothermal changes, or do you have published citations?

I wonder if that story is a misunderstanding of the need to restrict groundwater use and upgrade the city water system because of the known metal contamination plume under the old mill site a mile from town?

Here's the info on the uranium mill:


Surface cleanup was done; groundwater contamination remains, and apparently DOE and the state plan to restrict groundwater use and upgrade the city's water supply, per that same page: "... institutional controls for the mill site's contaminated groundwater and implementation of restrictions on groundwater uses. It also will provide for assistance in upgrading the City of Lakeview's domestic water system and long-term monitoring of groundwater in the area. Biennial monitoring of groundwater will continue until 2013 and afterwards once every five years in perpetuity."

references please 30.Apr.2005 19:31


I am considering purchasing property in the area simply because it is quiet and beautiful. I also sure would like to read more on this topic especially the uranium contamination.
Regards the note "People in the town, including the children began to experience high levels of leukemia: cancer of the blood." - do you have any references on this ?
Or any reference to Goose lake drying up ? I have been researching this for while and have found no evidence to support this.

More references please !

Lakeview becoming a conservative hellhole 08.May.2005 01:43

Lakeview Rattler

Lakeview is dying. It has no social, economic or political future. It is a wasteland of fundementalist rightwing claptrap.
People are afraid to speak out because the prison industrialists have so much control over the county.
I did not know they are trying to train mercenaries here. This concerns me deeply. I am part Native American and face harsh discrimination here because I have long hair and oppose the war in Iraq.
The discrimination against ANY people is flat out WRONG. Denying work to people desperate for employement is a form of social punishment for not going along with thier plans of control.
The county is left in fear for it's very survival. When you have 18 churches and no alternative views you get a theocracy. Lakeview is under a theocracy. And the corporate prison industrialists are taking advantage of the situation to build up the police state.

In the middle of nowhere

Why 09.Sep.2005 03:19

0 tolerance

I can't believe that someone would wish cancer and defects on anyone mutch less a town. I lived in lakeview for 18 years, and I'm a better person for it. There is a lot of Geothermal activity in the area, in fact Hunters RV has a Guyser and hotsprings nearby. There are uranium mines around the area and there has been contamination in the past, however in the 23 years that I have been alive there has only been 3 cases of cancer in the surrounding area, one of them being my sister.

Why tolerate an ignorant town? 02.Dec.2005 14:37

Jon Miler

Why tolerate a town that I would not find a job, I had no social life and I felt like I did not belong because I did not go to church? Why tolerate a closed minded town? I closed my mind about Lakeview a longtime ago. The place is not worth living in. The prison makes the place an even creeper place to be.
I am glad I left before they opened the prison. I hear it is NOTHING BUT TROUBLE for the town. Why tolerate Lakeview? I hope the place becomes a ghost town.
I live here in Springfield and I have a job, a social life and hope. When I lived in Lakeview I had none of the above.

Cancer in Lakeview 19.Jan.2006 19:47

Hometown Lady

I was born in lakeview 50 years ago, and have spent many years in the working in the medical community there. Regarding the comment made by 0 tolerance: There have been a good many more cases of cancer than only 3. My mother died of the disease, as a child she had lived on a homestead that was later to become the Lucky Lass Uranium Mine. Her sister died of cancer. My grandmother in Lakeview had cancer. I am a cancer survivor myself. My cousin, who still lives in lakeview has survived brain cancer. I have several more cousins died of cancer and buried in Lakeview. And this is just in one family. From personal experience caring for people in the Lake District Hospital, there have been MANY more than just 3 cases. Granted, some were not leukemia, many of them were, but the leukemia rate is much higher than the national average. I remember in the 70's seeing Dr. Connie Robertson for acne...her comment was 'just go stand in the wind by the U-plant, your acne will dry right up'. Thank god even tho I was just a teenager, I had better sense. Lakeview used to be a nice little town. But that's gone now, and due to the current economic situation and uses, it's not ever coming back.

Continue the fight to close the Warner Creek Correctional Facility 30.Mar.2006 22:39

Jon Miler

I recently relocated from Lakeview to Eugene to get away from the prison and the harm it is bringing to Lakeview. Every effort should be made to shut down this prison.
The prison has had a very nagitive effect on the town and it is a shame but Lakeview is never going to be the same again. I hope someone is out there still trying to get that thing closed.
I am getting ready to move somewhere near the Mapleton Florence area as soon as I can. Sure glad to be away from the prison industrialists and the gun lobby.

Thank god I no longer live in Lakeview 24.Apr.2006 16:54

Jon Miler

Things where getting pretty creepy right before I moved and the prison opened. I had the distinct feeling that Lakeview was becoming a lockdown town and fear was running high.
The police added to this feeling of insecurity. Of course everyone knows the prison has caused many to move away from Lakeview.
I talked to many who sold their homes and moved away to another small town. I see how hopeless Lakeview is now and how many people made wise choices to get away from lockdown Lakeview.
Fear is common there and the town has lost all of it's small town charm. I suggest everyone avoid it and when going to Reno don't even bother to stop there. It is a town where you cannot trust the local officals and the people who live there. Beware of the prison industrialists they will harrass all who oppose the prison and chase you right out of town. That is what happend to me.

Maybe A Ray of Sunshine in the Gloom 04.Feb.2007 10:50

Terry Hallinan terryhallinan@hotmail.com

Unpleasant news for sure.

My earliest years were spent in Warner Valley and later New Pine Creek before we moved to Klamath Falls. My father lived out his later years in Lakeview. Though I now live on the East Coast, one can never forget where they came from.

Just a few days ago I talked to the head honchos of Sierra Geothermal Power and mentioned two early geothermal power projects in Warner Valley and Neal Hot Springs near Vale. I got hoots of disapproval because of the "rabid environmentalists" in Oregon, who would surely hold up development. It's ironic considering the man-made ecological disaster that occurred in Warner Valley that is too well documented to regurgitate here.

It is rather odd that the greenest of all alternative energies suffers the greatest bureaucratic obstacles to development. B. C. McCabe and his Magma Power that made the U.S. the world leader in geothermal power despite enormous obstacles, ignorance and prejudice used to rail against regulators who made it more difficult to build a geothermal power plant than a nuclear power plant. That hasn't changed to this very day.

McCabe drilled holes all over the West like a kind of underground Paul Bunyan and brought in the monster "dry steam" Geysers field when light Saudi crude was going for maybe $5/barrel and gas was about 35 cents/gallon. He drilled the Crump Geyser in Warner Valley. The geyser actually appeared only sometime after the well had been plugged and abandoned.

The idiots that decry the horrors of geothermal energy might consider the geothermal paradise of Iceland where the famed Blue Lagoon spa arises from the output of a geothermal power plant. Iceland's air is so pure that Icelanders have leave to freely add lots of pollution from international regulators. An aluminum company is trying to do just that to the consternation of Icelandic environmentalists.

The good earth may yield some benefits yet to the people of Lake County.

Hope so.

Best, Terry

Westernville, NY

Hmmmmm....Only 3 people with cancer???? 28.Feb.2007 08:07

Lil Country Girl

That is an absolute lie....I am also from a local Lakeview family that has been devastated byancer. Yes, I often wonder why the cancer rate here is so high, but it doesn't really matter it seems to be too late!! The people that have lived here forever seem to have, fear they have, or be in remission from several cancers. I have lost people VERY dear to me to cancer here and I also have NUMEROUS family members here in remission from different forms of cancer. As for me, I was lucky enough to have spent my childhood elsewhere only to come back as an adult, I now have children and I try to safeguard against the cancer rate by only allowing them to drink bottled water and watchingwhere I take them for recreation. We are trying to move away from here also. I pray that cancer does NO more damage to the people of this community than it already has and the person that said otherwise has obviously never suffered the loss of a loved one to the terrible disease.

another point of view 26.Jun.2007 08:59

Patrick patt7@msn.com

after reading the comments posted here i had to say something.i dont know what lakeview these people are talking about having retired here 6 years ago. after traveling thru Oregon Nevada and idaho lakeview had the least amount no trespassing signs icould .the house i bought three bedroom home on a acre would have cost me twice as munch any were else the crime rate is very low manly because of the gun crowd the people here take care of their own they are there own unorganized militias.the people i have meet from the prison are mostly from other rual areas and care about there city .we dont have drive bys gang wars or riots the people here would not stand for it.lakeview is not perfect are biggest problem comes from outside large city trying to dictate to us how we should live that also includes the feds. thank you. patrick