A Short History of the Siskiyou Coast The first known visit to the Siskiyou region was in 1543 when Spanish explorers sighted Cape Blanco, the Spanish word for white and named for the fossil shells that gave the bluffs their bright hue. In 1603 Sebastian Vizcaino sighted and named Cape Sebastian for his patron Saint. By the late 1700's, Russians, British, and American ships sailed along the Siskiyou Coast. In 1792, Captain George Vancouver anchored off Cape Blanco after naming Port Orford for his friend, the Earl of Orford.
In 1828, Jedediah Smith searched for furs and camped several nights on his way northward through the county.
Captain William Tichenor led a small party of settlers to Port Orford in 1850. He left them there while acquiring more settlers and supplies. In his absence, the men were besieged by Natives but escaped to refuge at Fort Umpqua. Tichenor then brought a larger party in 1851, and they laid out a townsite which became the oldest settlement on Oregon's south coast.
At the same time, a skiff came into the Rogue River, overturned, and the men were stripped of their clothing by Natives. The ship returned and rescued the men and stayed for several days. A party of sailors rowed to Elephant Rock and carved the date 1850 and their ship's initials into the rock's face.
Soon after, GOLD was found in the streams, rivers and black beach sands. Settlers came to stay permanently, and problems with the Natives soon led to skirmishes and massacres on both sides. In 1856, the volunteer militia and the U.S. army became involved and by June of that year, the Natives surrendered and were taken by ship or forced march to reservations where many later died of disease.
By 1876, a salmon cannery was established near the mouth of the Rogue River. In 1870, The oldest continuously operating lighthouse was built at Cape Blanco, the westernmost point of land in the contiguous U.S., helping ships navigate the treacherous rocky waters.
For many years, the Siskiyou Coast was the last frontier of Oregon. Roads along the coast were very poor, and in some places, travelers waited until low tide to negotiate their routes along the beach. Most of the rivers had ferry boats for crossings. In 1932, the Roosevelt Highway and the Isaac L. Patterson Bridge across the Rogue River were completed, followed by decades of improved infrastructure north and south. Fishing and timber harvesting thrived in the region until the 1970's but have since experienced a dramatic and steady decline.
Southwestern Oregon was formed by volcanic action and uplifting when the Pacific plate receded beneath the landmass of Oregons coast. The Rogue, considered in existence prior to this upthrust, continued to carve deeply forming the present canyon on its way to the ocean. Rocks from many geologic periods appear throughout the canyon, including volcanic, serpentine, shale and basalt resulting from being upthrust, folded, intruded, and metamorphosed.
The lower Rogue is the seat of history and focal point of human events in the region. A procession of Chinese, Spanish, French and British explorers brushed through without much effect. Trappers from the Canadian Hudsons Bay Company found the local natives less than passive and named it La Riviere aux Coquins, the River of Rogues. By the mid 1800s, gold seekers penetrated the area also finding the natives less than hospitable. Bloody encounters and fatal skirmishes were commonplace until the Battle of Big Bend which ended the Rogue Indian Wars.
In 1968, the Rogue River Canyon was one of only eight rivers nation-wide to meet the criteria for being listed as protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - standing primarily on its own merits as a truly unique wild and scenic waterway. Ten years later, the Wild Rogue Wilderness Act added 38,000 acres surrounding the river to be protected under the National Forest land in Oregon. In 1984, the entire Illinois river was included to the list of Wild and Scenic Rivers. Add to that the Wild and Scenic designations of the Elk, Chetco and North Fork Smith rivers which also flow within Oregons Siskiyou Coast.
Kalmiopsis Wilderness The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is characterized by deep rough canyons, sharp rock ridges, and clear rushing streams and rivers. The area represents a unique landscape of unusual beauty composed of diverse topography, rock, soil, vegetation and wildlife hatitat.
The Kalmiopsis is named for a unique shrub, the Kalmiopsis leachiana, a relic of the pre-ice age and one of the oldest members of the health (Ercaceae) family.
Its rugged terrain is formed entirely by erosional processes. The area has been gradually uplifted over a period of about 40 million years. The dynamic environment of formation was that of an oceanic crust and continental margin. Abundant faulting and folding has taken place. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is legendary for its diversity of plant life! This primarily results from plant species adapting to life in harsh soils derived from perodotite and serpentinite rocks. This diverse plant life has been the result of a combination of geologic forces, erosional and depositional forces and periodic fires.
Designated a national treasure of biology and geology, the Siskiyou is the most floristically diverse forest in the contiguous United States. The old and complex geology, global position and transverse orientation of the Siskiyou Mountain range are responsible for creating this myriad of species. Geologic parent rocks from 200 million years old to the recent ice age alluviums that are about 50,000 years old. The rocks vary in composition from granitics to the metamorphosed peridotites (serpentines) that create the habitat of many of the sensitive species of plants.
The Siskiyou Mountains are situated at a latitude that is subjected to weather of both arctic and tropical origin. Its traverse orientation joins the Cascades with the Coast Range, providing a plant migration route between four ecological provinces. It also acts as a barrier to the penetration of weather from the north and south.
Together, the varied geological substrate and climatic extremes provide a range of niches for the rich reservoir of genetic material. There are 28 different coniferous species, 20 of which are used commercially. Of the approximately 400 sensitive plants found in the region, about 100 are found in the Siskyous. The Siskiyou Forest Plan emphasizes the need to understand and manage for ecosystem diversity and recognizes diversity as the key to forest health. Nowhere in the region is the ecosystem more complex than in the Siskiyou.
Oregon Coast Trail The Oregon Coast Trail will eventually traverse the entire 350 miles of the coast border to border. Over 300 are now in use; many of those miles are on the beach while others use existing or newly-built segments of the headlands. The trail allows up-close examination and access to some of the most spectacular coastline in the world.