Somes Bar – Center Of Klamath River Resources & Recreation
The Karuk Tribe Connects The Mid-Klamath River’s Ancient History, It’s Present And It’s Future
To the Klamath River’s Karuk tribe, Somes Bar is the center of the universe. Powerful immortals by cultural tradition have given the Katamin site, sugar loaf mountain, Ishi Pishi Falls, and other local sites, strong medicines that anchor this site permanently at the center of Karuk culture. Ceremonial dances such as the brush dance and the world renewal ceremony are continuing here much the same as they have for millennia past. The Karuk culture has survived the threatening intrusions of foreign culture, commerce and language and the Karuk tribe now partners as a sovereign nation in area resource management with the US Forest Service and other government agencies.
Like much of the American West, the rapid economic and cultural evolution of Somes Bar began with the onset of gold mining and homestead ranching beginning in the 1850s. After the peak of the mining industry, logging gained prominence as the leading resource consumptive industry. While mining, logging, and other consumptive industries still exist here, most area businesses now are more service based and emphasize sustainability in their nature. Recreation, tourism, resource management, lower impact farming and cottage businesses now are the prevalent industries of the area. Somes Bar and the Middle Klamath River corridor provide a globally recognized resource for Western American outdoor adventures of almost all types.
Somes Bar – the Middle Klamath Geography And Resources
Somes Bar is centered at the confluence of the Klamath and Salmon Rivers at Latitude: 41.45 Longitude: -123.48 with an indeterminate altitude due to largely vertical terrain. This is a strikingly beautiful, rugged and remote section of the middle Klamath River with grid provided electrical power remaining entirely unavailable except at the Salmon River confluence near the Humboldt county line. Private land is limited to isolated parcels surrounded by larger tribal and U.S. government land holdings that are managed in a more primitive and natural state. The climate of the Middle Klamath is temperate and relatively wet, with annual rainfalls exceeding 60 inches. The weather and river conditions vary seasonally and should be monitored by those visiting the area. Somes Bar and area real-time weather and river conditions can be found summarized at The Klamath River Report.
The Somes Bar population fluctuates around 200 permanent residents but this small number seriously understates the importance of this area. A reality check for the relevancy of Somes Bar can be viewed by surveying the number of community and governmental agencies that have an assigned oversight or otherwise vested interest in monitoring and managing the area resources. A partial list includes: The Karuk Tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, California Fish and Game, The California Department Of Forestry, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, California State Water Resources Control Board, NOAA Fisheries, The Klamath Forest Alliance, The Salmon River Restoration Council, The Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, etc. It would be an interesting calculation to determine the ratio of persons employed to manage and watch the Somes Bar Area resources to the number of persons actually living in the area.
“The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion of Northwest California is one of the most diverse temperate forest regions on earth. To the locals, the ecoregion goes by many names: the Klamath Knot for it’s rugged mountain ranges: State of Jefferson, for a local secession movement popularized in 1941; and Bigfoot Country, for the reputed sightings and mythical connection this creature inspires in indigenous communities. To biogeographers and conservationists, however, this area has many accolades, including designation as a World Conservation Union global center of plant diversity, a World Wildlife Fund Global 2000 ecoregion and proposed United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation as a biosphere reserve.” -Dominick A. Dellasala, Ph.D
Tourism, Non-Consumptive Industry, and the Community of Somes Bar
Somes Bar, California, remains an unincorporated community in Siskiyou County. The native American and the pioneer cultural influences continue here on varying levels to this date. This mix of peoples and cultures creates an amazingly diverse community in spite of a remarkably small number of residents. Some of the current cottage businesses include back-country outfitters, salmon and steelhead fishing guides, organic framers, white water rafting outfitters, loggers, dude ranch resorts, nurseries, forest resource managers and more. The common bond shared by California’s Somes Bar residents is an intense interest in a preservation of the essential qualities and features of the area while somehow finding an income sufficient to remain a local area resident. People living here typically want to remain here. Some of the strong community fabric is manifest in the support for Junction School (two school rooms for grades K – 8), the community band, the Nena Creasy Christmas Bazaar, and in the ongoing community dialogue on the Klamath River and forest management. Opinions on how to manage and protect local culture and natural resources both bond and divide the community and are the heart of the debate for the Somes Bar future.
California’s Klamath – Siskiyou region is placed among the top ten temperate conifer eco regions on Earth
More from Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D
- approximately 3,500 plant species, including 220 endemic vascular plant taxa (including ssp and var.) within northwest California and southwest Oregon (pers. commun. J. Sawyer; http://www.Humboldt.edu/%7Eherb/);
- nearly two-thirds of the entire California floristic province (Smith and Sawyer 1988);
- at least 30 conifer species (depending on specific boundaries some researchers report as many as 40 species; J. Sawyer, personal communication);
- up to 115 species of butterfly (Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, E. Runquist, unpublished data);
- at least 235 mollusk taxa, including 60% of which are endemic (Frest and Johannes 1999);
- the most diverse herpetofauna of any similarly sized mountain range in the Pacific Northwest, including 79% of all herp species in the Northwest (Bury 1999);
- among the highest diversity of dwarf mistletoe (11 taxa) in the United States (Mathiasen and Marshall 1999);
- one of the greatest concentrations of ultramafic bedrock geology in western North America (Coleman and Kruckeberg 1999);
- exceptional beta-diversity (changes in plant communities along environmental gradients; Whittaker (1960), Ricketts et al. (1999));
- high levels of fish richness (33 taxa) and endemism (42%); and • the largest complex of unprotected roadless lands along the Pacific Coast from the Baja to Canada (e.g., Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area; Strittholt and DellaSala 2001).