The American Backpacker (Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)

Kalmiopsis Wilderness Expedition (Oregon)


I recently returned from another adventure into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness located within the Siskiyou National Forest.  The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is located in the Southwest portion of Oregon, bordering California. This Wilderness area is a very rugged area with the Illinois River running through it.  The Kalmiopsis has a rich history of gold mining going back to the mid 1800’s.

This area has an insurmountable amount of ores, minerals, and other geological rocks.  These valuable ores brought in many prospectors and miners in the 1800’s.  Even today, there are still active mining claims in the Kalmiopsis.  During my expedition, I found saws, chisels, bottles, and other equipment used by these miners.  In some areas there are signs of old mining camps from the 1800’s.  Stories are told of supernatural activities in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Some adventurers have heard unusual noises and some have stated seeing ghostly apparitions.  My 5 nights alone in this Wilderness made me think of these supernatural activities.  I heard some unusual noises during the evenings, but my nights were pleasant and very relaxing.  The moon shined bright during the evenings and it allowed for me to visually see my surroundings especially the well-known Illinois River.  The Kalmiopsis has a diverse and rare botanical life to include the Kalmiopsis plant for which the Wilderness was named after.

There is also a variety of wildlife that includes the black bear, cougar, deer and elk.  On my first night in this Wilderness a deer came into my basecamp.  It was not afraid of me and it took a shirt that I had hanging on some 550 cord.  I gave quick chase and the deer luckily dropped my shirt.  Grizzlies once roamed this area but they have been expatriated.

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake also roams this area.  I had a close encounter with one near my basecamp in a he evening. Luckily I saw it as I was walking on some rocks. It was warming itself on a rock and looking for food. I left it alone and it scrambled between some rocks.

Kalmiopsis Wilderness
A Rattlesnake Found Close To My Basecamp

In 2002, a massive wild-fire known as the Biscuit fire devastated this area.  It burnt over 100 thousand acres.  The fire was started by a lightning strike. 15 years later you can still see the after effects of burnt trees and scorched earth.  The historic Redwood tree grows in this area.  Some are several hundred years old.

My Journey took me along the Illinois River that has been designated a wild and scenic river.  I established three base camps during my stay with two overlooking the Illinois river.  The temperatures were hot during the days and they dropped into the upper 50 in the early morning hours.  There was no rain during my 5 night 6 day expedition.  I drank a lot of water from the cool mountain creeks flowing into the Illinois River.

My adventure was documented with a lot of photographs and videos.  I felt as though I was brought back in time to an area untouched by civilization.   My only source of communication with family and friends was with my Garmin inReach Explorer Plus, (GPS satellite communicator).  This GPS communicator was my lifeline and I carry it with me on all my Wilderness adventures.

Some of the trails were difficult to follow as I bushwhacked from point to point. Having good navigational skills along with a good topographical map was a necessity. I ended my journey reflecting upon the Kalmiopsis’s rich history and scenic views.  I left refreshed both physically and mentally looking forward to my next expedition in another remote and rugged Wilderness area.

Kalmiopsis Wilderness Expedition