About the Forest

Overview

Chetco Canyon - Photo by Rene CasteranLocated in southwestern Oregon and extending into California, the Forest ranges from the crest of the Cascades Mountains west into the Siskiyou Mountains, nearly to the Pacific Ocean. The Forest covers almost 1.8 million acres; portions of the Applegate and Illinois River drainage's extend into northern California. The Rogue River drains over 75 percent of the Forest's land area.

The previously separate Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forests and their nine ranger district offices were administratively combined in 2004. The Supervisor's Office is located in Medford, OR. In 2007 the nine ranger districts were consolidated to form five: High Cascades, Siskiyou Mountains, Wild Rivers, Gold Beach, and Powers. Field offices remain in the communities of Prospect, Butte Falls, Ashland, Ruch, Grants Pass, Cave Junction, Brookings, Gold Beach, and Powers. The Forest also is home of the J. Herbert Stone Nursery located near Central Point.

Your Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest embraces a treasure of botanical diversity, and is home to incredible wild and scenic rivers, isolated wilderness, outstanding fisheries and wildlife resources, and breath-taking landscapes of mountains, meadows, streams, and lakes.

The Rogue River National Forest (until 1932 called the Crater National Forest) was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The name Rogue River commemorates the Takelma Indians, whose defense of their homeland let early day French-Canadian trappers to call them les Coquins, "the Rogues". The Siskiyou Forest Reserve was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, and the Reserve was designated as the Siskiyou National Forest in 1907. The name Siskiyou is a Cree Indian word for bob-tailed horse (bestowed in 1828 by French Canadians working for the Hudson Bay Company).

Sky Lakes WildernessThe forest itself is composed of two distinct geological provinces: The Cascade Range and the Siskiyou Mountains. The Cascade Range is dominated by snow capped volcanic peaks such as 9,495 foot Mt. McLoughlin located within the Sky Lakes Wilderness on the High Cascades Ranger District. The Siskiyou area embodies the most complex soils, geology, landscape, and plant communities in the Pacific Northwest. World-class wild rivers, biological diversity, remarkable fisheries resources, and complex watersheds define the Siskiyou. The Rogue River-Siskiyou is the most floristically diverse National Forest in the country with some extraordinary botanical resources.

The unique character of the landscape has led to the designation of over 340,000 acres of the Forest as wilderness, and over 200 miles of streams as National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Wilderness areas managed all or in part by the Forest include: Sky Lakes, Rogue-Umpqua Divide, Red Buttes, Kalmiopsis, Siskiyou, Wild Rogue, Grassy Knob and Copper Salmon. National Wild and Scenic Rivers include: Upper Rogue, Illinois, North Fork Smith, Chetco, Elk, and Rogue.

Climate

Climate on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest changes with elevation and as you move inland from the coast. The Coast Range is a temperate rain forest where rainfall ranges from 60 inches to over 100 inches at higher elevations. Rainfall occurs mostly from October through June. Further inland, annual precipitation drops to about 30 inches at the lower elevations of the Siskiyou Mountains. Much of the precipitation comes from October to April in the form of rain at the low elevations and as snow in the higher elevations where very cold temperatures are possible. Although snow is possible in the lowest elevations, it is infrequent. Late spring, summer and early autumn tend to bring clear, sunny days with moderate temperatures. Temperatures near the coast seldom exceed 75 degrees in the summer and snow is rare in the winter. Inland, the ocean influence diminishes and summer temperatures frequently reach the 80s and 90s, and snowfall of over ten feet is common in the higher elevations of the Cascades in the winter.

Location and Driving Directions

The southern portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest area encompasses much of the Rogue River basin in Southwestern Oregon. Forest headquarters, located in Medford, Oregon and the nearby communities of Grants Pass and Ashland are situated along Interstate 5.

The northern portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is accessible via Oregon State Highways 62 and 140. The western portion of the Forest can be reached via U.S. Highway 199 between Grants Pass and Crescent City, CA and from U.S. Highway 101 along the coast.

Cascade Mountains

East of Interstate 5, the Forest contains the upper reaches of the Rogue River, located along the slopes of the volcanic Cascade Range. Although the southern Cascades tend to have fairly gentle relief, several deep canyons, such as the Middle Fork of the Rogue and the South Fork of Little Butte Creek, are located in this part of the Forest. The highest point (9,495) is the top of Mount McLoughlin, one of the major volcanic cones in the Oregon Cascades. The area's extensive forest of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine and other conifers is enlivened by occasional meadows, lakes and meandering streams.

Siskiyou Mountains

West of Interstate 5, the Forest resides within the ancient and complex geology of the Siskiyou Mountains. This is a country of narrow canyons and high, steep ridges. Elevations range from almost sea level near the coast, to 7,533 feet at the summit of Mount Ashland (the highest point in Oregon west of the Cascades). The variety of environments includes open oak woodlands, dense conifer forests, and barren, rocky ridge tops.

Botanical Resources

During his studies here in 1950, Dr. Robert Whittaker found that only the Great Smokey Mountains rival the Siskiyou Mountains in plant diversity. The old and complex geology, the global position and transverse orientation of the Siskiyou Mountain Range, which connects the Cascade and Coast Ranges, are responsible for creating this myriad of species. Geologic parent rocks range in age from 200 million years old to the recent ice-age alluviums that are about 50,000 years old. The rocks vary in composition from granitics to the metamorphosed peridotites (serpentine) that support the habitat for many of the sensitive species of plants. By contrast, much of the Cascade Range (a mere 60 million years old) is composed of relatively recent igneous rocks, and the Coastal Ranges are dominated by sedimentary rocks.

Together the varied geological substrate and the climatic extremes of the Siskiyou Mountains provide a range of niches for a rich reservoir of genetic material. There are 28 different coniferous species, and about 100 sensitive plants found in the Siskiyou's.  Ninety two plant associations have been identified in 15 different plant series in the area.  The Siskiyou Mountains present a biological treasure trove of varied and unique species to manage.