Klamath Siskiyou

Protecting 220,000 Acres in the world-class Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion

For over a decade, Geos Institute has played a lead science role documenting the world-class biodiversity of this 10-million acre region in southwest Oregon, northern California. Recently our science publications recognized it as a critical climate refuge for rare plants and wildlife to weather the coming climate change storm, if protected from unsustainable land use.

The biodiversity hotspot within the larger Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion is the ~quarter-million acre south Kalmiopsis area that borders northern California’s Smith River National Recreation Area and contains the highest concentration of rare plants of any of Oregon’s 1400 watersheds. Pristine headwaters support Oregon’s best remaining salmon runs and highest water quality. Just to the west, lie Oregon’s only ancient redwoods. Unfortunately, industrial scale nickel mining operations are proposed in the area that, if developed, would degrade the headwaters of the North Fork of the Smith River, which flows into the popular Smith River National Recreation Area, the headwaters of the Illinois River, which is a salmon stronghold, and important salmon spawning areas along Oregon's coast.

Geos Institute has been a central participant in a campaign to secure permanent protection for the Kalmiopsis area for the past two years. Our partners, Oregon Wild, American Rivers, KS Wild, and other local organizations, are bringing to bear their organizing experience and the Geos Institute is leveraging our scientific expertise in a multiyear campaign to meet our shared conservation goals to permanently protect this biodiversity hotspot.

Mystic Corridor Tour

From Crater Lake to the Coast

Join us for an online road tour down the Mystic Corridor, between Crater Lake National Park and the Pacific Coast, with its world-class recreation sites and scenic attractions.  This tour crosses the northern part of the Klamath-Siskiyou region on highways 62, 234, 99, and 199.

For each stop on this virtual tour, you will find:

  • a 2 to 3 minute video about the site and what you can do there    
  • driving directions and a map    
  • links to more information and resources

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Explore the Klamath-Siskiyou

Breathtaking beauty and untouched serenity are only a small part of what makes the Klamath-Siskiyou region so unique.

Teeming with life, the Klamath-Siskiyou is ranked one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. From the Pacific coast, the rain-soaked coastal redwood forests give way to the rugged Klamath Mountains, which are bordered on the east by the arid foothills of the Rogue and Shasta Valleys. Wild salmon and steelhead spawn in the pristine Wild and Scenic Rivers, while the clear, cold streams provide fresh drinking water for our local communities.

The Klamath-Siskiyou region's dense mountain forests and beautiful rivers provide a recreational wonderland for generations of families to enjoy and pass on.

The federally-protected Wilderness Areas, National Recreation Areas, National Forests, National Parks, and Wild and Scenic Rivers ensure that this national gem will remain for our future generations to treasure.

  • Geology

    From north to south, four mountain ranges span the Klamath-Siskiyou region: the Siskiyous, Marbles, Trinity Alps, and Yolla Bollys. Geologists call these mountains the "Klamath Knot," because they all have one thing in common: they are composed of a complex variety of rocks largely untouched by glaciers.

    Geologists believe these mountains were created about 200 million years ago when the North American plate and the Pacific plate collided. The heavier Pacific plate dove (subducted) underneath the North American plate, scraping layers of the ocean floor onto the edge of the continent. The pressure from this event thrust up mountains made of the ocean floor. Over millions of years, surface sediments were transformed by heat and pressure, becoming metamorphic schist and gneiss.

    Over time, these mountains eroded into rolling hills, until 3 million years ago when the great plates slipped sideways and split the ranges into large, upturned fault blocks. These became the steep, water-carved canyons we see today.

    The terrain is rugged, and its abrupt changes in geology, soils, elevation, slope, aspect, and moisture are the leading reason for the region's incredible diversity and variety.

  • Biodiversity

    The Klamath-Siskiyou's world-class biological diversity makes it one of the most unique ecosystems in the world.

    The great diversity and age of the region’s underlying geology and soils, as well as its geographic location, account for the Klamath Siskiyou’s astounding biodiversity.

    Positioned at the junction of the uplifted Coast Ranges, the volcanic Cascades, and Sierra Nevadas, the Klamath-Siskiyou was spared the vulcanism and glaciation that occurred around them, thus making the region a refuge for plant and animal species from all directions.

    Not only is it home to 3,500 plant species, but nearly 300 of them exist nowhere else on Earth. The region also contains 36 species of conifers, more than any other temperate forest region in the world.

  • Forests

    Large, majestic and varied, the forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou are both awe-inspiring and biologically fascinating.

    Thirty-six conifer species exist in the Klamath-Siskiyou, more than anywhere else in North America and possibly the world. In a one-square-mile area of the Russian Wilderness alone, 17 conifer species are found - the highest diversity of conifers ever recorded at a single site.

    The rain-soaked coastal redwood forests in the west contain the tallest trees on Earth, attracting tourists from all over the world.

    Ancient tree species found nowhere else on Earth include the Brewer spruce and Port Orford cedar, both survivors of the ice age.

    Experience the Klamath-Siskiyou and discover what makes this region a national treasure.

  • Watersheds

    The beautiful, healthy rivers of the Klamath-Siskiyou region bring countless benefits to the local communities.

    Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to these rivers, like the Rogue, Klamath, Salmon, and Smith, to raft, fish, hike and to just enjoy their inherent beauty.

    The Siskiyou Wild Rivers in the Oregon part of the Klamath-Siskiyou is home to the most iconic aquatic species in the Pacific Northwest: the Pacific Salmon. Native salmon and steelhead in the Rogue River watershed alone bring more than $1.5 billion to the local economy each year.

    Whether you love to enjoy river recreation or just a nice glass of fresh drinking water, the clear cold rivers in the watersheds of the Klamath-Siskiyou are valuable and important.

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A Wild American Forest

dvd thumbAcademy Award winner Susan Sarandon narrates the remarkable, inspiring story of how a rugged pocket of America’s Pacific Northwest has endured 150 years of logging, mining, and dam-building to remain one of the largest strongholds of old-growth forest in the nation. The beautiful, scenic Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region, straddling the border between California and Oregon, is a wonderland of biodiversity and one of the world’s most important temperate forest regions. The tallest trees on earth grow here, and the greatest concentration of wild and scenic rivers in the nation tumble through the steep terrain.  Filmed in more than a dozen wilderness areas and national monuments, A Wild American Forest showcases the Klamath-Siskiyou’s natural splendor and vividly illustrates why this area is recognized as a globally significant bioregion.

Like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, the Klamath-Siskiyou bears the impact of more than a century of resource extraction.  Yet a remarkable set of circumstances--including topography and a landmark court ruling preserving spotted owl habitat--has left the 20,000 square-mile eco-region with more than a third of its old-growth forest intact, a higher percentage than the Pacific Northwest overall. How this happened is explored in the film with the help of those who know it well, from scientists and foresters to an economist, Native Americans, and other local residents. But what will the future bring?  Only one-fourth of the area’s old-growth forest enjoys full legal protection, putting the rest of it at risk.  Salmon populations are on the brink of collapse here and elsewhere on the Pacific coast. A Wild American Forest reveals how creative solutions to these problems have been set in motion in the Klamath-Siskiyou, setting a precedent for the world.

Watch the first five minutes of A Wild American Forest

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Emerald Waters - Wild Rivers At Risk

The Kalmiopsis region in southwest Oregon is home to wild rivers and rare beauty. It is one of the most biologically diverse landscapes on the West Coast. It is also threatened by industrial scale nickel mines. British investors are looking to turn the wild and pristine wildlands into a wasteland of haul roads, ore smelters, and mountain top removal. Grassroots conservation groups are building support to protect 90,000 acres of the Rough & Ready, Baldface, and Hunter Creek watersheds from mine development. Join the efforts today.

Watch the video depicting this rare and beautiful landscape.

Emerald Waters - Wild Rivers At Risk from KS Wild on Vimeo.

Old-growth Forests Hold Keys to Adapting to Climate Change

Scientists released new findings on the importance of mature and old-growth forests in preparing the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northern California for global climate disruptions. Published in the January edition of The Natural Areas Journal (Volume 32: 65-74) by the Natural Areas Association, the study calls on regional land managers to protect mature and old-growth forests as an insurance policy for fish and wildlife facing mounting climate change pressures from rising temperatures, declining snow levels, and reductions in fog along the coast.

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