TJ Howell Botanical Drive

Named for Thomas Jefferson Howell, an early botanical explorer of Oregon, this drive has been designed to share some of the natural wonders of the Siskiyou Mountains. You can learn about plants and explore habitats influenced by serpentine geology, visit the Wild and Scenic Illinois River, and see some of the effects of the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

Approximately 7.5 miles of the Eight Dollar Road is designated as The TJ Howell Botanical Drive. The drive passes predominately through the Josephine Ophiolite, a large chunk of upper mantle and oceanic crust that has been shoved up above sea level, exposing ultramafic serpentine and its parent rock, peridotite. Part of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, this location is one of the largest serpentine areas in North America.

Only plant species that can tolerate extreme conditions grow here. Thin soils, heavy metals (magnesium, nickel, chromium, iron), and nutrient stress (low amounts of calcium and nitrogen) make these serpentine soils inhospitable. Many unusual, rare, or endemic species have evolved under these conditions, while other plants have special adaptations for survival, or exist in stunted form.

Who was T J Howell?

Thomas Jefferson Howell (1842-1912) was Oregon's earliest pioneer botanist and created the first species guidebook to regional flora for the Pacific Northwest. Howell was very determined, botanizing extensively despite being poor and only semi-literate.

A Flora of Northwest America was self-published in seven fascicles (1897-1903) and consisted of 3,150 species, 89 of which were newly described by Howell. He collected over 500 specimens from Josephine County, including 46 type specimens! A type specimen is a pressed herbarium specimen upon which the original plant description is based - important in the science of plant taxonomy. Howell also collected tens of thousands of plant specimens from Washington and Oregon, and donated approximately 10,000 specimens to the University of Oregon.

At a Glance

Open Season: Spring - Summer
Best Season: Spring
Closest Towns:
  • Selma, OR
  • Cave Junction, OR
  • Grants Pass, OR

General Information

General Notes:

From Selma, OR, travel south on Highway 199, and turn right onto Eight Dollar Road. Travel for one mile. Set your odometer to zero at the parking area for the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area. All mileage is listed from this point.

Drive carefully; the road is narrow, and gravel portions are rough and washboarded.


Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Plants

Viewing Scenery

Interpretive Areas

Scenic Driving

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities