Bear Peak Botanical Area

Citizen Science in the Siskiyous

img_4865I recently started a citizen science project with 5 classes of high school biology students from Fortuna, California. The plan is to combine their observation skills with the technology offered by iNaturalist. Each month they will visit Rohner Park and record data on a chosen spot in the forest–looking for plants and animals as well as  changes in canopy and ground cover. As they become more proficient in species ID, students will also upload observations to our iNatural Project ultimately creating a field guide to their local forest. We all know how much I like field guides…

My plan, over future visits to wilderness areas, is to start similar citizen science projects.  The first attempt at this wide-ranging project began this week on a visit to the Bear Peak Botanical Area on the Klamath National Forest. I originally wrote about this area in my book Conifer Country because it is unique in many ways, including the populations of yellow-cedar found  here. This species in common further north, but quite rare in California.


Bear Peak Botanical Area


According to the Klamath National Forest website:

Bear Peak Botanical Area is a 310 acre site located within the Siskiyou Wilderness.  It varies in elevation from 4000-5740 feet and is a representative example of both mixed conifer and true fir forest types on glacial granite. The area harbors many conifer species including yellow-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkaensis) and Brewer spruce (Picea breweriana). The Sensitive species Pedicularis howellii is also found in the area.

When I arrived at the trailhead, it had been raining for most of the drive. I threw on my pack and headed off on what I hoped would be a 6 mile hike to the Bigfoot Trail where I would set up a photo-monitoring plot for our Citizen Science project. This did not work out as planned. After only a few miles of hiking, sunset was approaching and I was soaked while walking in several inches of snow. I retreated to my car with plans to try again the next day. It rained all night and into the next morning and became clear that I would not be making the trek across the Siskiyou Crest to the BFT but could instead venture back to the Bear Peak Botanical Area. So it was that I spent the day walking in more rain and snow, but using my camera to document species along the way. I now have set up a project with iNaturalist for the Bear Peak Botanical Area and I hope more hikers will add observations on their visits.

What follows are a few other observations from the trip:

I love this spot. Possibly the only place in the world where a fire dependent subtropical pine is growing within 50 feet of a subarctic conifer species. The Siskiyous are truly amazing…
Yellow-cedar grove expanding upslope in the Bear Peak Botanical Area.
A small break in the clouds reveals the Bear Lakes basin.
A small break in the clouds reveals the Bear Lakes basin.