Whiskeytown, CA

Photo: Des Callaghan

March 21 – 24, 2003
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Organized by James R. Shevock of the National Park Service

Our host for SO BE FREE 8 was the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. Our base of operations was the Whiskeytown Environmental Education Camp within the park. Whiskeytown NRA is 9 miles west of the city of Redding, California along California highway 299.

Whiskeytown embodies approximately 70 square miles of shrubland, oak woodland, and mixed conifer forest. These plant communities surround the Whiskeytown Lake, which lies at the confluence of seven major streams, which not only provide drinking water for several municipalities, but also function as one of the largest watersheds feeding into the Sacramento River. Elevations in the park range between 800 feet at the southern end of lower Clear Creek, to 6,209 feet at the summit of Shasta Bally. The topography of the area can generally be described as steep hillsides in excess of 25 percent slope with high velocity watercourses. Whiskeytown’s location within the Klamath Mountain physiographic province, proximity to the Cascade Mountains, Coast Range Mountains, and Sacramento Valley, provides for a diversity of habitats.

The climate in Whiskeytown varies considerably with the seasons and elevations. Typically, summers are hot and dry, and winters are cool with moderate rainfall. Fahrenheit readings over hundred degrees occur often during the months of May through October, with occasional sub-freezing temperatures from November through March. The average annual precipitation is 60 inches. Seventy-five to ninety percent of the total annual rainfall occurs between November 1st and April 30th. Reliable figures on snowfall are not available. However, snow often remains at the higher elevations well into June.

Whiskeytown’s diverse plant communities integrade with one another in such a way that distinct boundaries are seldom observed. Chaparral is typically found in the form of dense, impenetrable thickets and is usually found below 2,000 feet on dry, rocky, steep slopes. This plant community varies in species composition and vegetation structure from distinct monocultures to combinations of shrub species that intergrade with other plant communities. These communities are dominated by whiteleaf manzanita, ceanothus species, chamise, toyon, yerba santa, and poison oak. Within the chaparral plant community, even-aged stands of knobcone pine can be found, along with grey pine, ponderosa pine, and other occasional hardwood and softwood species.

Mixed oak woodland communities are scattered throughout the park at elevations up to 2500 feet. The lower elevation oak communities are dominated by black oak, canyon live oak, and interior live oak. Higher elevation communities are dominated by black oak with scattered ponderosa pine and other hardwood and conifer species. Also, there are a few distinct blue oak woodland communities found below 2,000 feet.

From approximately 1500 to 3000-foot elevations, ponderosa pine is the dominant tree in this community with Douglas-fir, dogwood, canyon live oak, and other scattered hard and softwood species present to a lesser extent. Black oak is co-dominant with ponderosa pine in many areas. The understory shrub component includes manzanita, ceanothus species, poison oak, and toyon.

The mixed conifer community ranges in elevation from 3,000 to 5,900 feet and is primarily comprised of a mixture of co-dominant tree species. These species are ponderosa pine, incense-cedar, Douglas-fir, sugar pine, and white fir. Sub-communities contain species that are less dominant but regionally plentiful such as white alder, California yew, red fir, and Jeffrey pine. In areas of dense forest canopy, the understory shrubs are either sparse or scattered and consist of tan oak, greenleaf manzanita, dogwood, western azalea, snowbush, and sierra gooseberry.

Riparian communities that vary in species composition and vegetation structure depending on elevation, steepness of slope, aspect, and quantities and timing of the water source. Little data is available on the vegetation of the riparian communities. Canyon bottoms and ravines primarily consist of Douglas-fir, canyon live oak, dogwood, Oregon ash, bigleaf maple, Fremont’s cottonwood, black cottonwood, black locust and scattered mixed conifers. Ponderosa pine, gray pine, and oak species are scattered throughout on drier sites. The exotic Himalayan blackberry chokes a significant portion of these riparian corridors in the lower elevations, with other shrub species such as California blackberry, buckeye, spice bush, button willow, snowdrop bush, snowberry, and chaparral species mixed in along the periphery. White alder riparian forests line streams in deep, steep-sided canyons in higher elevations. White alder is the dominant tree, accompanied by bigleaf maple, and an understory of western azalea and miner’s dogwood. A unique yew-willow riparian woodland with California yew and a variety of willows is found on Shasta Bally.

Friday 3/21/2003 around 4pm we gathered at the Whiskeytown Environmental and Education Camp for a brief look around the camp and dinner. After dinner we had an orientation lecture about the region by local biologists from the park.

Saturday and Sunday were taken up by all-day field trips, followed by microscope sessions after dinner.

In the evenings we had slide shows about bryophytes and current research efforts of the participants.

Monday we explored around the lake in the morning, leaving in the afternoon after lunch.

people gathered around a map
Where were we?

slope with snow
Hmm, maybe a little early in the season

Reservoir in distance

Person looking through a dissecting scope
Might be a Bryum

Person at microscope station
Judy has her own opinions

People studying mosses along a soil bank
Notice the shape of the leaf

And the long awns

Young capsules