The Kalmiopsis is a distinct geographic region a little inland from the Wild River Coast of southwest Oregon and northwest California. Located in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, and almost entirely within the Siskiyou National Forest, it consists of the congressionally protected Kalmiopsis Wilderness, surrounded by large, equally wild but unprotected Roadless Areas, bordered by Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and Botanical Areas.
Named for one of the rarest plants on earth, the Kalmiopsis (pronounced Kal-me-opsis) is steep, lean and wild in the extreme. It’s the rugged backcountry to the lush green, of a spectacular coastline with its small communities, state and national parks, private and national forests and public lands. But most important the Kalmiopsis region is the home and headwaters to some of the most unique and beautiful rivers in the nation.
The clearest of water and wildest of salmon and steelhead
The abundant streams flowing from the Kalmiopsis region boast some of the clearest, cleanest waters in the nation. Three National Wild and Scenic Rivers and their tributaries provide pristine habitat and refuge for renowned runs of wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout.
The riches of rivers, salmon and clean water provided by this remote wilderness, and smaller free-flowing coastal streams like Hunter Creek and the Pistol River, are essential to the economy and livability of the Wild Rivers Coast.
The Kalmiopsis serpentines
The unique serpentine geology that sets much of the Kalmiopsis apart from the deep green of the surrounding mixed evergreen forests is a little understood scientific wonderland. Growing amongst the ancient rock of this almost desert-like landscape are some of the rarest plants on earth. Unique wetlands—with insectivorous plants and ancient cedar—are found on ridge tops, as well as well as, along the region’s creeks and rivers.
The rocky serpentine terrain serves as a vast sponge, recharging a complex groundwater system that provides pure water for fish, rare plants and downstream communities. There is quite simply no place like it.
The Kalmiopsis wild lands
The Kalmiopsis Wilderness lies at the region’s heart. But surrounding the congressionally protected Wilderness are the North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas. Together they are the largest unprotected National Forest wild area adjacent to designated Wilderness in Oregon and on the West Coast, south of the Olympics. Smaller adjacent Roadless Areas, such as Packsaddle, are often separated from the whole by a narrow ribbon of road. Around the wild edges of the greater Kalmiopsis are numerous Botanical Areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.
The Kalmiopsis rivers
While legendary for its rare plants, and named for one of the rarest (Kalmiopsis leachiana), most people know Kalmiopsis best for the rivers that flow through it—the National Wild and Scenic Illinois, Chetco and North Fork Smith rivers.
The Kalmiopsis is also home to five U.S. Forest Service Eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers that meet the criteria needed to become National Wild and Scenic Rivers. They are: Baldface Creek, Rough and Ready Creek, Josephine/Canyon Creeks, Silver Creek and Indigo Creeks.
These rivers and their tributaries flow without high dams to the Pacific Ocean. Combine these unique river systems with the nearby National Wild and Scenic Rogue, Elk and Smith Rivers—and smaller priceless native salmon and streams like Hunter Creek, the Pistol River and the Winchuck River—and you have a wealth rivers like none other on the West Coast,
The Wild Rivers Coast
Gradually, the leanness of Kalmiopsis—with its deep river canyons and slopes beyond the angle of repose—gives way to a spectacular coastline. Samuel Boardman and other State Parks preserve much of it, providing a wealth of public access to beautiful beaches and remote stretches of coast. Remnants of a great redwood forest are preserved in Redwood National and State Parks. The 305,000 acre Smith River National Recreation Area shelters the watershed National Wild and Scenic Smith Rive system in California by protecting all of the river’s National Forest lands in that state.
An un-paralleled conservation opportunity
The greater Kalmiopsis Region and the Wild Rivers Coast offers a one-of-a-kind conservation opportunity to protect unique free flowing river systems, their wild National Forest watersheds and native runs of salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout.