The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History

The Klamath Mountains

I could not be more proud of our new book. It is, in reality, a project 10-years in the making. I first started cooking up the idea when I finished Conifer Country in 2012 based on the fact that a natural history had never been written for the Klamath Mountains. Around 2015, during a winter gathering, I proposed an outline to a group of friends and asked who wanted to help write the book with me. Justin Garwood raised his hand and the rest is now history!

Why Natural History?

Writing a natural history happens with definable landscapes. For it to be comprehensive, regional boundaries defined by geology, ecology, and climatic patterns—or realistically all three—create a space wherein a natural history emerges. The Sierra Nevada’s granitic boundaries have produced numerous natural histories. Other regions of the West that have their own natural histories include Daniel Matthew’s Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains that weaves climate and ecology. A new tome, Mountains of Nevada, by David Charlet, uses political boundaries to define an entire state’s flora by way of 300+ mountain ranges. Lawrence R. Walker and Frederick H. Landau use climate to tell A Natural History of the Mojave Desert. The list goes on. These books are exciting because natural history is foundational in building and maintaining the human relationship with nature. The written relationship of natural history in the western world started with Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt. Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others have continued these traditions—today, I believe we are experiencing a natural history renaissance.

Our Natural History

The Klamath Mountains: A Natural History

With the help of 34 co-authors we are now better connected to the natural history of the Klamath Mountains. Climate, soils, fire, and geology connect all living things across space and time. From those connections to the land, interpreted by the First People in the beginning and built upon by western scientists who followed, the deep knowledge for this place is helping to reinvigorate relationships to the land and with each other. In this bond, we all have something to offer—and even more to the mountains and rivers and forests. We will continue to share our current knowledge and better understand what those before us have done and thought. Through these connections, we can only hope that some of our old approaches and understandings fade away and a better path for place-based connection and stewardship continue to grow.

The Natural History Institute defines natural history as the “…practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy.” Justin and I present our honest and accurate work for the Klamath Mountains.

The first comprehensive regional natural history is here!

Edited by Michael Kauffmann & Justin Garwood
with 34 contributing authors, all experts in their fields.

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Mill Creek Wilderness

Mill Creek Wilderness The main event has been on the calendar for the past eight years. I have heard stories from friends who have actually traveled around the world to see the phenomenon–and from that alone I knew if there was and eclipse practically in our backyard, we needed to go. We selected a spot in the heart of the Ochoco National Forest and literally on the edge of the Mill Creek Wilderness in a meadow complex. The Mill Creek Wilderness Twin Pillars Trail was our hiking destination the day before the eclipse event. The wilderness protects a harsh environment typified by ancient lava flows, fire-prone conifer forests, and the Mill Creek Drainage itself. We found wonderful views across central Oregon and a fire-scared landscape on our way to the Twin Pillars. In addition, western larch (Larix occidentalis), was the conifer highlight on this adventure.

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Kalmiopsis leachiana

Survival in a land of extremes

Original Publication DATE: 6/3/2010

With the end of the school year in site, my calcifuge tendencies had me running to the hills. Ever since our winter trip to Hawaii I have been pondering the Ericaceae family, gaining a new found love for this diverse group of plants. I also knew that they, like me, had a propensity to ‘flee from chalk’ so to speak. Ericaceous plants generally prefer, if not acidic soil, a harsh medium on which to grow. Could this familial disposition–to thrive in the presence of harsh soil–be due to the extant members of this tribe having evolved from a common ancestor? I thought I must visit one of the oldest members of the family and get to know where they grew and what they knew or could share. Though I have been hearing the call of the Kalmiopsis for many years, I had failed to yet make the trek into this remote country. With snow lingering this spring, keeping me from my typical high Siskiyou destinations, the time was right for Oregon’s second largest wilderness. The lower elevation wilderness is so named after a relict plant Lilla and John Leach discovered here in 1930.

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Subalpine Fir in the Red Buttes Wilderness

Original Publication Date: 8/8/2010

In 1969 Dale Thornburgh and John Sawyer discovered the first subalpine fir in California and also in the Klamath Mountains. This discovery was made in the vicinity of Russian Peak in what is now the Russian Wilderness. Since that time the species has been found in a total of eight locations in California’s Klamath Mountains and twice in Oregon’s Klamath. One of those Oregon locations is near Mt. Ashland and the other was recently discovered by Frank Callahan to the east in the Red Buttes Wilderness. This second location, in an isolated cirque on the north side of Tannen Peak was my destination–with Frank Callahan as my guide. Continue reading “Subalpine Fir in the Red Buttes Wilderness”