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Klamath National Forest - Easy Access to its Diversity of Trees

Klamath National Forest - Easy Access to its Diversity of Trees
Notes by R. Max Creasy

Read these special recommendations by the Ecologist of Klamath National Forest. Expert Max Creasy suggests some of the best places for you to see the special trees of this Northern California region.

Reasons for diversity in Klamath NF.

While studying tree diversity in the Klamath one needs to acknowledge the great environmental variability, primarily temperature and precipitation, and the tremendous complexity and diversity of the geology and associated landforms. Also contributing to the rich biodiversity is the paleo-climatic history of the region plus the geographical proximity to other floristic provinces.

With respect to geology, the ultramafic rocks (serpentinite, peridotite) are of special interest to our flora. There are several areas in the Forest that offer good opportunities to view ultramafic vegetation, and all these areas offer easy-to-moderate access (relatively short hikes or drive-to) and great botanizing:

A Sampling of Other Trees and Areas of Botanical Interest on Klamath NF.

Brewer's Spruce, a Klamath Mountains endemic (found in many areas already noted) can easily be seen along the Jefferson Scenic byway (a.k.a. the Grayback Rd) which goes from the town of Happy Camp to O'Brien, OR. There is a Brewer's Spruce Botanical Area along the road (not marked, but the large majestic trees are prominent along the road). Look for Port-Orford-cedar in the adjacent stream bottoms. The largest Brewer's spruce is found near Granite Meadows in the headwaters of Knownothing Creek on the Salmon-Trinity divide.

Poker Flat can also be accessed by vehicle from the Grayback road and offers a chance to botanize in a mountain meadow on the edge of the Siskiyou Wilderness. From Poker Flat there is a trail down to Kelley Lake that features many marshy meadow areas along the way.

The southern range of Pacific Silver fir (Abies amabilis) can be viewed after a long hike (about 11 miles) to the English Peak area in the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

The tremendous tree diversity of the Russian Wilderness is best seen by hiking up the Duck Lake trail. After passing through a mixed conifer forest of ponderosa pine and Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Engelmann spruce starts to mix in with white fir and Shasta red fir. Beneath the high ridges with foxtail and whitebark pines is Little Duck Lake and associated stands of subalpine fir.

The Klamath NF is also a region of great hardwood diversity. The most common hardwoods are tanoak, madrone, giant chinquapin, canyon live oak, black oak, Oregon white oak, aspen, black cottonwood, red and white alder, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash, dogwood, and more! These persistent hardwoods offer great resiliency to our fire-adapted ecosystems and provide valuable nutrient cycling and food for wildlife.

More on Trees in Dillon Creek watershed.

The Dillon Ck watershed offers unique tree species, primarily with the presence of Port-Orford-cedar (Cupressus {Chamaecyparis} lawsoniana) and Alaska yellow cedar (C. nootkatensis). The Bear Peak area (mention elsewhere as a hike) has C. nootkatensis and C. lawsoniana in the Bear Lakes basin, C. nootkatensis in the upper cirque, and C. lawsoniana further down around upper Bear Lake, as well as Brewer's Spruce throughout.

Beautiful specimens of C. lawsoniana can be seen along Kelsy Trail beyond Bear Lakes trail junction. These are interesting in that they are growing on a ridge that is not typical of where C. lawsoniana is usually found. They are on peridotite-derived soils, which may explain their presence. (This soil is high clay with great water-holding capacity; the area experiences high precipitation, and there is the reduced evapo-transpiration stress of higher elevation.) These are ancient trees, easily exceeding 500+years. We believe some are in excess of 800 years, based on ring count of a fallen tree across the trail.

While visiting Port-Orford-cedar stands, please be cognizant of the threat of introducing or transporting Port-Orford-cedar root disease (Phytophora lateralis), a lethal disease specific to POC. Information on the disease is available from offices of the Klamath, Six Rivers, and Shasta-Trinity NFs.

Southern Cascades bioregion in Klamath NF.

When thinking of the Klamath NF, most folks associate with the Klamath - Siskiyou bioregion, but part of the Klamath NF includes the Goosenest Ranger District of the Southern Cascades bioregion (or Shasta - Cascades).

This is an area forested mostly with white fir and Shasta red fir, but also has large expenses of lower-elevation communities with ponderosa pine grading into the lower western juniper zone with large amounts of sage and bitterbrush. There are also large areas of lodgepole pine in association with pumice soils. The Butte Valley National Grasslands also are found here.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch ...

The botany staff of Klamath NF is well experienced locally and will be adding a web page to the existing Klamath Forest site, to highlight the botanical treasures of the Klamath NF.

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