The Klamath Mountains
The coastal lowland forests receive the most annual rainfall of anywhere else in the Klamath Mountains. From the north in Oregon the Coquille, Rogue, and Illinois rivers drain southwest Oregon and the Smith River country is California’s only temperate rainforest. The rich soils, temperate year-round growing season, and high rainfall (often over 100 inches) nurture these impressive forests.
Klamath coastal lowland forests are typified by dense, closed canopies on well-developed soils (sometimes serpentines). The dominant tree species have high colonizing abilities, long life, and a wide ecological tolerances to environmental conditions, including dry summers with occasional persistent fog. These forest thrive below the snow belt on the extreme western slopes of the Siskiyou Mountains. Species like Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Port Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) secure the highest place in the canopy, often approaching 300’. A second canopy forms one hundred feet below and includes species like tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) and madrone (Arbutus menziesii) where they share an understory with coastal specialists like salal (Gaultheria shallon) and evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum). With the high volumes of rain that falls each winter, banks of coastal rivers and streams are frequently disturbed and then repeatedly pioneered by red alder (Alnus rubra).
South Kelsey Trail
This is my favorite hike in a coastal lowland forest of the Klamath Mountains. In addition to being a segment of the historic Kelsey Trail, it is also the final stretch of the Bigfoot Trail in the Klamath. I recently spent five days working with a crew of dedicated volunteers clearing this trail. While noted on the Six Rivers National Forest as a National Recreation Trail, the steep terrain and high rainfall make this a difficult segment to maintain and it has see years without any work. It is our goal to adopt this section of trail and spend time on it each year to get it back to enjoyable hiking conditions. The following are a few botanical highlights from the route.