President Harry S. Truman established the Six Rivers National Forest by Presidential proclamation on June 3, 1947. The new Forest’s initial 900,000 acres were carved from the western portions of the Klamath and Trinity National Forests and the southern portion of the Siskiyou National Forest.
The Six Rivers National Forest includes 957,590 acres of mountainous land that stretches from the Oregon border south for approximately 140 miles to Mendocino County. The Six Rivers also manages the Klamath National Forest’s Ukonom Ranger District, bringing the total land under Six Rivers’ management to 1.08 million acres. The Six Rivers’ headquarters is located in Eureka, with district offices (or “ranger districts”) in the communities of Gasquet (Gasquet Ranger District, which includes the Smith River National Recreation Area), Orleans (Orleans Ranger District), Willow Creek (Lower Trinity Ranger District), and Mad River (Mad River Ranger District).
Elevations across the Forest range from nearly sea-level to approximately 7,000 feet. As a result, the Six Rivers supports diverse ecosystems and landscapes. The Forest is composed of extensive stands of coniferous forest, with moderate amounts of oak woodland and grassland in the southern part of the Forest. These ecosystems provide habitat for eight federally classified threatened and endangered species, including the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. In addition, 32 plant, 2 bird, 1 fish, and 2 mammal species found in the Six Rivers are designated as Forest Service sensitive species.
The Six Rivers National Forest is named for the six major rivers that run within its boundaries: the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel. The Smith, Klamath, Trinity, and Eel Rivers comprise over 365 miles of designated Wild and Scenic River. The Salmon River in the Ukonom Ranger District is also a Wild and Scenic River. The Smith River is the only major undammed, naturally flowing river remaining in California. The rivers provide many recreational opportunities. While rafting and kayaking are popular water-based recreational activities, the resilient watersheds of the forest are perhaps best known for providing some of the best anadromous fishing opportunities in California. In addition to river recreation, popular activities in the Six Rivers include camping, hiking, backpacking, picnicking, and motorized vehicle use. The Six Rivers provides multiple facilities for all of these activities. The Six Rivers also has more than 1,500 miles of streams, constituting 9 percent of California’s total freshwater runoff.
The Six Rivers shares management of four wilderness areas─the Siskiyou, Trinity Alps, Yolla-Bolly, and Marble Mountain─with nearby national forests, and has sole responsibility for managing the North Fork Wilderness. The federally designated Smith River National Recreation Area consists of 307,973 acres of the northernmost section of the forest. Commercial uses in the forest include timber harvesting and grazing, and, to a lesser extent, mineral extraction and harvest of special forest products, such as Christmas trees and mushrooms. Additionally, the Six Rivers contains more than 1,260 known historical or archaeological sites.
The forest and the many communities located within and near its boundaries are mutually dependent on one another. This is particularly true in wildfire prevention and suppression, which is a critical function of the Six Rivers’ fire and aviation management program. Partnerships with tribes and local community organizations, such as fire safe councils, are crucial for preventing wildfires as well as protecting local communities through treatment of hazardous forest fuels.
The Six Rivers is managed to provide access to high-quality recreation opportunities for the public, sustain and protect natural resources for their ecological and commercial value, and serve as an economic development resource to the region. The Forest staff and local communities are meeting the challenge of balancing these multiple objectives through creative partnerships and cooperative stewardship of the land.