The Kalmiopsis is a ancient wild land of deep canyons, endless ridges and hauntingly beautiful rivers. It’s located in a remote rugged corner of Southwest Oregon on the Siskiyou National Forest and Medford District Bureau of Land Management. The southernmost tip includes the California half of North Fork Smith River watershed, within the Smith River National Recreation Area of the Six Rivers National Forest.
The rivers of the greater Kalmiopsis region are entirely free flowing, entering the Pacific Ocean along a spectacular area known as America’s Wild Rivers Coast.
The Kalmiopsis is a large contiguous wilderness made up primarily of the congressionally protected Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the unprotected North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas plus adjacent botanical reserves and smaller roadless areas. In the north, the Shasta Costa watershed and roadless area form the wild bridge between the Kalmiopsis and the Wild Rogue Wilderness. The Kalmiopsis is central to the botanical richness of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.
The wild foundation for a clean water based economy
The Kalmiopsis is a wild land of deep silences and great solitude but it’s not for the faint of heart/pleasure-bent recreationist. What the Kalmiopsis does best is priceless but often goes unrecognized or unappreciated. It’s a working wilderness, producing some of the purest drinking water in the nation to downstream communities in Josephine, Curry and Del Norte counties. And not only does this fragile, botanically rich wild area provide cool, clear water for people to drink but the same exceptional waters help sustain the region’s world-class salmon and steelhead runs.
If preserved in its entirety, the quality of life, sports fishing and river recreation provided by the Kalmiopsis outside its loose boundaries will be key assets in building sustainable clean-based-economies of the future.
Home to nationally outstanding wild and scenic rivers
The Kalmiopsis is home and headwaters to some of Oregon’s most treasured rivers—the renowned National Wild and Scenic Illinois, Rogue, Chetco, and North Fork Smith. The North Fork Smith flows into California’s iconic Wild and Scenic Smith River. The Forest Service has also found five tributaries of the mainstem rivers—Baldface, Rough and Ready, Josephine/Canyon, Silver and Indigo Creeks— eligible to become National Wild and Scenic Rivers on their own merit.
What makes the Kalmiopsis and its rivers like no place else on earth
The subtle grandeur of the Kalmiopsis lies outwardly in its beautiful rivers—refuges for wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout—and its complexity, integrity and botanical richness. The water clarity of its rivers is stunning and it’s home to one of the greatest concentration of rare and endemic plants in North America.
The foundational elements that make the greater Kalmiopsis wild area and its rivers so exceptional and distinct are its unusual serpentine geology, the dynamic climatic forces resulting from its proximity to its and ancient ecological processes—also hold its greatest threat, nickel strip mining. Extreme off highway vehicle users attracted by the often open terrain destroy rare plant habitat and spread non-native species and plant pathogens..
Spacious, wild and less than half protected.
The greater Kalmiopsis wild area consists primarily of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the unprotected wildlands and botanical areas surrounding it, including the North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area—the largest National Forest wild area in Oregon. In the Smith River National Recreation Area.to the south, the stark serpentine terrain of the Kalmiopsis meets the lush forests of the Siskiyou Mountains. In the north the Shasta Costa Roadless Area is the wild bridge between the Kalmiopsis and the Wild Rogue Wilderness.