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The Klamath National Forest encompasses nearly 2 million acres of land straddling the California and Oregon border. The Forest is divided into two sections separated by the Shasta Valley and the Interstate Highway 5 corridor. In the mountains to the west, the terrain is steep and rugged while the east side has the relatively gentler, rolling terrain of volcanic origin. With elevations ranging from 450 to 8,900 feet above sea level, the Forest is one of America’s most biologically diverse regions, situated in a transitional region between the hotter and drier areas of the south and the colder and wetter locale of the north.
This central position of the Klamath in relation to the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, Coast Range and Great Basin has fostered complex climatic patterns and led to an unparalleled diversity of plant life found nowhere else in California. More species of conifers live near or in the Klamath’s Marble Mountain and Russian Wilderness Areas than anywhere else on earth. An astounding 17 conifer species co-exist within one square mile! The forest is also home to one plant that lives nowhere else on earth, the Siskiyou Mariposa Lily.
Nearly 400 animal species reside on the Klamath. There are wild horses and seven elk herds, as well as Coho salmon and steelhead populations. Sightings of river otter, mink, deer, bear, osprey and bald eagles are common along the Klamath’s rivers. Black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, badger, reptiles and amphibians are also widespread across the Klamath, but good timing, skill and patience are required to find them. Pronghorn antelope, birds of prey, large flocks of migrating waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes are common within the Goosenest Ranger District and the Butte Valley National Grassland.
The region's bird diversity is astonishing. Two American Birding Association Birding Routes wind through Siskiyou County. The California towhee and blue-gray gnatcatchers of the oak woodlands and chaparral enjoy their northern limits here. Species that live in deep coniferous forests, such as northern goshawks and olive-sided flycatchers are also found. The Siskiyou Crest provides habitat for Clark’s nutcrackers who seek timberline. The old growth forest is also ideal habitat for the endangered northern spotted owl.
The Klamath is a vast array of mountains, streams and lakes, where opportunities abound for hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting, camping, backpacking and sightseeing.
The Klamath National Forest includes some or all of five wilderness areas: Marble Mountain, Russian, Trinity Alps, Red Buttes, and the Siskiyou. The Klamath’s 1,100 miles of hiking and equestrian trails lead you into wilderness and other natural playgrounds. Four National Recreation Trails, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT), the Boundary National Recreation Trail, the Kelsey National Recreation Trail and the Clear Creek National Recreation Trail explore the high country. More than 200 miles of the Klamath, Scott and Salmon Rivers and their tributaries have been designated under the nation’s Wild and Scenic River System as having outstanding cultural, geologic, scenic, wildlife or fishery values. Many more streams and creeks within the Forest have been recommended for inclusion in the system. River running and kayaking are popular and the fishing is great.
The State of Jefferson Scenic Byway travels along historic Highway 96 from Yreka to Happy Camp and then north up Indian Creek Road to Oregon. Visitors can drive south from Happy Camp on Highway 96 along the Bigfoot Scenic Byway to Orleans. For those that thoroughly enjoy getting away from it all, or simply enjoy a leisurely drive, the Klamath is the place to visit.