Protecting the beautiful rivers, wild lands and legendary botanical diversity of Oregon's Kalmiopsis Country

The South Kalmiopsis

A spacious wild land of most uncommon worth and charm

The Inventoried South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area is big—well over 100,000 acres. It’s the second largest Inventoried Roadless Area in Oregon and the third largest in the Northwest. Physically the South Kalmiopsis is at one wth the east side of the congressionally protected 179,000 acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The boundary dividing the two wild areas is administrative—evident on maps, invisible on the ground. Together with the Inventoried North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area they are the last wild rugged expanse federal public lands on the west coast south of the Olympics. 

But size and continuity with congressionally protected Wilderness is only one measure of South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area’s worth. It stands apart from other National Forest wild areas due to its serpentine geology, botanical richness and beautiful creeks and rivers with with some of the cleanest, clearest water in the world..

Rivers of flowers

The South Kalmiopsis is watershed to two National Wild and Scenic Rivers—the Illinois and North Fork Smith Rivers and three streams the U. S. Forest Service has determined to be eligible to become National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Baldface Creek, Rough and Ready Creek and Josephine/Canyon Creeks all meet the free flowing and nationally outstanding criteria required to be added to the national system of wild and scenic rivers upon action of congress.

Mapping of natural heritage data shows that, with adjacent national forest and BLM lands, the South Kalmiopsis is host to one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in the Klamath-Siskiyou Region and likely North America.

Wilder and redder

In the seminal hiking guide to the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains—Hiking the Bigfoot Country—John Hart writes that the South Kalmiopsis is both redder and wilder than the adjacent Chetco River basin in the congressionally protected Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Hart describes the South Kalmiopsis as “all tumbled ridges drained by the North Fork Smith River and Rough and Ready Creek.”

This is the climax of peridotite landscape, the stunted yet lovely forests and the enormous reddish vistas of the Josephine Sheet.

What John Hart refers to as the Josephine Sheets is now known as the serpentine terrain of the Josephine ophiolite. 

Kalmiopsis Wild
The watershed divide between Baldface Creek and Rough and Ready Creek in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and the U.S. Forest Service’s recommended 34,000 acre South Kalmiopsis Wilderenss Addition. Barbara Ullian Photo.


Two large Inventoried Roadless Areas surround the 179,000 acre congressionally protected Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The North and South Kalmiopsis—in reality one big wild area—total over 194,000 acres. They’re the largest unprotected national forest wild area in Oregon.

  • South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area – 104,620 acres
  • North Kalmiopsis Roadless Area –   88,582 acres
  • Kalmiopsis Wilderness Addition         1,166 acres

Smaller nearby wild areas

Additional unprotected roadless and wild areas surround the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the North and South Kalmiopsis. The wild areas are often separated by little more than a narrow road corridor. They include the Packsaddle Roadless Area at over 7,000 acres and the Squaw Mountain Roadless area at 7,700 acres.

Why the Roadless Area Rule does not protect the South Kalmiopsis

The Clinton Roadless Area Conservation Rule is supposed to prevent logging and new road construction in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA) such as the South Kalmiopsis. However, it did not prevent post-fire logging in the South or North Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas during the Bush Administration.

The rule also allows motorized recreation in IRAs. Irresponsible off highway vehicle use is seriously impacting the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area’s unique serpentine terrain and rare plant habitat. Even in areas closed to public motorized travel, OHV users are creating new routes, including in the Forest Service recommended South Kalmiopsis Wilderness Additiion. They vandalize gates and vehicle barriers.

OHV activities have resulted in irreversible impacts to many miles of streams in the South Kalmiopsis through the introduction of Port Orford cedar root disease. The non-native pathogen is fatal to Port Orford cedar, which is often the principle riparian conifer along streams flowing through serpentine terrain. See the USDA’s Celebrating Wildflowers on Port Orford cedar.

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule offers no protection from the most significant threat facing the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area—nickel strip mining. The Cleopatra mining project is entirely in the South Kalmiopsis, as well as both proposed mine sites for the RNR mining project at Rough and Ready Creek. Learn more at our Kalmiopsis Rivers website.