Klamath BioregionThe Klamath/North Coast Bioregion -- An Overview

Klamath river meets Pacific Ocean
The Klamath River flows into the Pacific Ocean

The Klamath/North Coast Bioregion in California's northwestern corner extends roughly one-quarter of the way down the 1,100-mile coast and east across the Coastal Range and into the Cascades. This bioregion is famous for its rocky coastline, salmon fishing, and lush mountain forests of spectacular ancient redwoods and Douglas fir. Redwood National Park and numerous state parks, rivers, wilderness areas, and four national forests are in this bioregion.

Location, Cities, People

Ten counties make up the Klamath/North Coast Bioregion: Del Norte, most of Siskiyou, Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino, Lake, and the northwestern portions of Shasta, Tehama, Colusa, and Glenn. Its boundaries are the Oregon border on the north, and the southern borders of Lake and Mendocino counties on the south. Despite the huge size of this bioregion, its population is only about 410,000 according to 1990 census figures. The bioregion extends from the Pacific Coast eastward more than halfway across California to the Modoc Plateau and the Sacramento Valley floor. The Hoopa Valley, Yurok, Karok, Paiute-Shoshone, and Pomo-Kato Indians are native to various parts of this bioregion.

The largest cities are Redding -- a Northern California crossroad on Interstate 5 -- and Eureka, a Humboldt County seaport. Smaller cities include Clearlake, Ukiah, Arcata, Fort Bragg, Yreka, Mendocino, and Crescent City. Tiny hamlets with whimsical names like Hayfork, Honeydew, Ferndale, and Happy Camp capture the rustic, pastoral nature of this bioregion and its people. Main highways are I-5, U.S. 101, and state Highways 36, 299, 96, and 3, which cross mountains and can be steep and winding.

Tourist Attractions, Industries

Along the coast, redwood trees hundreds -- even thousands -- of years old are a cherished natural resource and major tourist attraction. These hushed forests of towering giants and damp, fern-covered floors possess the ethereal splendor and serenity of a cathedral. They are home to the endangered marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in old-growth, and the threatened northern spotted owl, whose decline prompted severe reductions in federal timber harvest sales to preserve its habitat. Listing of the owl under the federal Endangered Species Act and other 1990s economic impacts upon the once-booming timber industry forced closure of many sawmills and dislocation of workers. Traditionally timber-dependent communities, forced to diversify their economies, are encouraging the growth of tourism, improving infrastructure, and seeking ways to attract and accommodate new businesses. Cattle ranching, dairy farming, and fishing are popular traditional industries of the bioregion.

Climate and Geography

Much of the Klamath/North Coast Bioregion is covered by forest -- the Klamath, Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers, and Mendocino National Forests, Jackson State Forest, and private forests, including the famous Headwaters ancient redwood forest in Humboldt County. This mountainous bioregion includes the North Coast Range and the Klamath, Siskiyou, Marble, Salmon, Trinity, and Cascade mountains. The Klamath/North Coast is the state's wettest climate, with rainfall distribution varying widely from an average annual 38 inches at Fort Bragg to 80 or more inches in the King Range National Conservation Area. The coastal climate is cool, moist, and often foggy, with rainy winters at lower elevations and snow in the higher mountains. Inland the climate is drier with low rainfall in winter and hot, dry summers.

Major rivers include the Eel, Trinity, Klamath, Russian, Smith, Salmon, Scott, Mad, and Mattole, which flows into the Pacific Ocean near seismically active Cape Mendocino. Clear Lake, Whiskeytown Lake, Clair Engle, and the western part of Shasta are the largest lakes in the bioregion.

Plants and Wildlife

Vegetation includes mixed conifer habitat of white fir, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, Sierra lodgepole pine, incense cedar, sugar pine, red pine, Jeffrey pine, mountain hemlock, knobcone pine, western red cedar, red alder, redwood, tanoak, Pacific madrone, and chaparral.

Wetlands provide places for resting, nesting, feeding and breeding for native and migrating birds and waterfowl. Wildlife in the bioregion includes deer, fox, black bear, mountain lion, California clapper rail, Aleutian Canada geese, Roosevelt elk, osprey, fisher, bank swallow, Coho salmon, king salmon, otis blue butterfly, bald eagle, Point Arena mountain beaver, Swainson's hawk, willow flycatcher, western sandpiper, and Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Rare species include northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, American peregrine falcon, Lotis blue butterfly, Trinity bristle snail, red-legged frog, Siskiyou Mountains salamander, Pacific fisher, Del Norte salamander, Karok Indian snail, wolverine, goshawk, and Chinook salmon.

Rare plants include Sebastopol meadowfoam, Burke's goldfields, Humboldt Bay owl's clover, Calistoga ceanothus, Baker's navarretia, coast lily, swamp harebell, Tracy's sanicle, Snow Mountain willowherb, marsh checkerbloom, pale yellow stonecrop, Scott Mountain phacelia, McDonald's rock cress, Klamath Mountain buckwheat, Oregon fireweed, Adobe lily, dimorphic snapdragon, Colusa layia, Indian Valley brodiaea, and Stebbins' lewisia.

Please see also: Shasta River Watershed Tour from the Klammath Resource Information System.

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