Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Soda Mountain Wilderness (Proposed)

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 176-178.

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Multiple collisions at an ecological crossroads.

Location: Jackson County, Oregon, and Siskiyou County, California, 18 miles southeast of Ashland

Size: 59 square miles (38,000 acres)

Terrain: Deeply incised canyons and high ridges

Elevation Range: 2,355-6,089 feet

Managing Agencies: BLM, Ukiah (California) BLM, California Fish and Game

Agency Wilderness Status: 5,895-acre BLM wilderness study area; 5,867 acres recommended

Recreation Map: East Half Medford District BLM (Oregon portion)

Ecologically, this is truly where east meets west meets north meets south.

One finds the western limits of the arid and sunny Oregon Desert; the intermixing of the wet temperate forests of the Cascade and Klamath mountain ranges; the eastern limit of the plants of the moist and cool Pacific Ocean; and the northern limits of drier, sunnier California chaparral.

Depending on the aspect, elevation, and soil, you may be in a true fir forest, a montane wildflower meadow, a pine-oak/fescue grassland, a maple—black oak riparian forest, a California white oak savanna, a juniper-cedar/bunchgrass bald, or a chaparral brushland.

The east-west Siskiyou ridge connects the Cascade and Klamath Mountains, allowing for easy species migration. Ten rare, threatened, or endangered species have been identified in this mosaic. The lower elevations are critical black-tailed deer winter range. Roosevelt elk, mountain quail, cougar, black bear, bobcat, golden eagle, goshawk, and prairie falcon are present.

The desert influence is obvious: big sagebrush, low sagebrush, Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, western juniper, lupine, rabbit-brush, desert parsley, In- dian paintbrush, and wild rose are all present. In late summer those flowers are visited by clouds of butterflies.

At Agate Flat lie deposits of petrified wood and many colors of agate. Pilot Rock, the most prominent feature of the area, is a volcanic plug of columnar basalt (visible from Interstate 5).

During the last-minute deliberations on the president's Northwest Forest Plan, the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council convinced the White House to create the Cascade Siskiyou Ecological Emphasis Area, which includes the wilderness proposal. Logging is prohibited until 2005, when a new management plan will be completed.

The area consists of two units: Pilot Rock and Bruce Boccard.