Two Special Southern Oregon Creeks
Today’s guest blog about the #8 Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks- a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from Zachary Collier, owner of the Northwest Rafting Company in Hood River, Oregon. Zachary is an avid paddler working on a multi-year project to document the wild area in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
Rough & Ready Creek and Baldface Creek are the most amazing streams you’ve probably never heard of. They both flow through an area of exposed peridotite in southern Oregon, and share a common ridgeline. Rough & Ready Creek flows south into the well-known Wild and Scenic Illinois River, upstream of the commonly boated Illinois River Canyon. Baldface Creek flows west into the North Fork of the Smith River, which later enters California and the spectacular Smith River system.
I discovered both of these creeks while looking at maps for new places to paddle in southern
Oregon. Both are just south of the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and are part of a larger area of wild lands where few roads exist to provide access. After learning more about their unique beauty, a few of us decided to make the effort to hike kayaks into these drainages to see them first hand (read our Rough & Ready Creek and Baldface Creek trip reports for the story and photos).
Each time I visit the area in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, I come back passionate about this one-of-a-kind region. It’s rare to find large areas of exposed peridotite on the Earth’s surface. At first glance, the surrounding landscape resembles Mars with its unique red rocks. Plants and trees seem sparse, which is uncommon for southern Oregon. Peridotite is relatively rich in heavy metals and lacks important elements, like nitrogen, that plants need for survival.
But under closer inspection, you begin to see many unique signs of life. In fact, the peridotite landscape these creeks flow through has the highest concentration of rare and endemic plants in Oregon. A good example is the Darlingtonia californica— a rare carnivorous plant that digest insects as its adaptation to the lack of nitrogen. It is also home to the famous Port-Orford-cedar, which only grows in southern Oregon. The Port-Orford-cedar is world-famous for its strength, fire resistance, and rot resistance, but they’re sadly threatened by the Port-Orford-cedar root disease. This disease has been spread by wet vehicle tires around many of the rivers and creeks in southern Oregon, but Rough & Ready Creek and Baldface Creek are thus far unaffected.
Unfortunately, the peridotite soil is also very popular among nickel miners. The rising cost of nickel and other minerals has increased the interest in large-scale nickel mines that would devastate the water quality of these creeks, harm the delicate landscape, and promote the spread of the Port-Orford-cedar root disease. Mining has been an ongoing threat to these unique creeks and the only way for them to receive permanent protection is for Congress or the President to remove these creeks from mineral entry.
Oregon’s Senators Wyden and Merkley, along with Oregon’s Representative DeFazio, have asked the Secretary of the Interior to remove these creeks from mineral entry every year from 2009 to 2011. Please join us to help spur Congress or the President to permanently protect these creeks from mining.
Learn more about these special creeks at RoughandReadyCreek.org.