Crisscrossing the forests of Siskiyou County are thousands of miles of trails. Travelled over the years by deer and bear, Native Americans, fur trappers, and settlers, these paths twist and turn through the trees and mountains of the landscape presenting panoramic views of the land and the hidden treasures nature has created. Many of these trails have become parts of the Interstate, highways, and roadways of Northern California. Others remain exclusive to the use of wildlife and hikers. A new venture is a proposal to take some of these trails and create The State of Jefferson Trade Route, a path for off-highway vehicles (OHV) stretching from Yreka to the Pacific Ocean.
Siskiyou County Off-Road Riders (SCORR) exists to promote the interest of off-highway vehicle enthusiasts. The group endeavors to give the media and public a better understanding of the activities of OHV participants, providing safe and legal venues for the sport. Their activities include education, an emphasis on safety, and engagement in civic and charitable events in all the forms of OHV pursuits. Together they find ways to combine their love of the outdoors with the vehicles they enjoy riding.
SCORR member Darrel Collins is a vocal advocate of the new trail. Early in February, he informed the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors of his efforts to develop a plan with the United States Forest Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which would permit a pathway from forest to ocean. He solicited the County Supervisors to consider a county resolution giving permission for OHVs to use off-highway dirt roads, while obtaining their aid in encouraging the California Highway Patrol to allow for OHV crossing on three highway points which the trail would cross. Collins continued his efforts with the Yreka City Council, asking for a staging area in Hawkinsville for the trail, due to its close proximity to Interstate 5. The council would also need to give allowance for some streets to be open to OHVs as they passed from Hawkinsville, through Yreka to the wilderness. The creation of the route would take the cooperation of many local and federal agencies, each who could gain from the new route.
If the trail moves from dream to reality, ATVs and dirt bikes could move from Yreka to the ocean. Tourists and residents would enjoy the North state in a new way, taking a few days to travel and camp along the route, which would pass through the communities of Yreka, Seiad Valley, and Happy Camp. With over 250 miles of riding, the forest and hills would give way to the beach and sea, exposing those making the trip to the ocean vistas of the California coast.
By beginning The State of Jefferson Trade Route in Yreka, the trail would have exposure to Interstate 5, giving amazing access to its resources and the tens of thousands of people driving north and south. The mining town, which once hosted prospectors, would now open its hotels and businesses, each year, to the thousands of off-highway hobbyists wanting a unique experience. The land once tilled for golden giving way to a new golden opportunity of an outdoor adventure through the proposed off-highway trip.
For the 350 people of Seiad Valley, the roads built for the long silenced logging trucks will welcome OHVs. For now, the State of Jefferson flags waves over the Seiad General Store and Cafe, marking what could be a significant stop of the journey to the coast. The cafe receives excellent reviews, boasting a stack of pancakes any hungry off-highway enthusiast would appreciate. The OHV trail will add to the visitors coming from the Pacific Crest Trail, whose hikers pass through the community.
Further on, Happy Camp is known as “The Heart of the Klamath.” Here the Klamath River drifts by carrying rafters, with its lazy stretches transforming into rapids and back to calm waters. Happy Camp is also known as the “Gateway to the Marbles,” with hiking trails to the Marble Mountain Wilderness close by, giving access to over one hundred lakes. Here a traveler or two whispers of Bigfoot sightings. The addition of OHV riding would add to the allure and access of the small community.
The State of Jefferson Trade Route would take advantage the existing web of roads and trails, which weave a tapestry through the woods and streams, inviting people to the beauty of Siskiyou County. Along the way, a myriad of campgrounds already exists for travelers, with new ones being suggested. The rivers and hills seem molded for the joy of hikers, campers, fishermen, and off-highway riders who can appreciate the art of nature, crafted in the mountainous landscape.
If the county adopts an OHV friendly policy, the opportunities for business, tourism, and recreation would capitalize on the natural wonders the area already possesses. To the north, Oregon enjoys people who take an estimated 2.6 million days to pursue time off in OHVs. This brings in revenue of $250 million and adding $64.1 million in labor wages. The benefit to recreationist and resident is obvious.
For now the trail is a dream. The efforts of SCORR and others within the county could soon make The State of Jefferson Trade Route a reality. Awaiting, are the four- wheeled vehicles and two wheeled bikes, longing for the trip of a lifetime. Siskiyou County has a long history of being open to those longing to embrace its outdoor wonders. The paths of early pioneers may soon add a new type of activity to the journeys they host.
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