Ishi Wilderness Area

Front CountryIn the southern Cascade foothills, approximately twenty miles east of Red Bluff, California, lies the Ishi Wilderness, a unique 41,000 acre, low-elevation wilderness. This is a landPhoto: Black Rockincised by wind and water, dotted with basaltic outcroppings, caves, and bizarre pillar lava formations. This is up and down country, a series of east-west running ridges framed by rugged river canyons.

The sunburnt south slopes carry brush (a mixture of species called chaparral). Pines and oaks live on the moister north-facing slopes, and lusher riparian forests line the river banks. Unique to this area are the pineries, dense islands of ponderosa pine growing on terraces left after rivers cut the canyons.

The Ishi is named for a Yahi Yana Indian who was the last survivor of a tribe which lived in the area for over three thousand years. Shortly after 1850, the white settlers killed all but a handful of the Yahi. Ishi (the Yahi word for man) and a few others that escaped, hid for decades in this harsh wild country. Today, only what the Yahi left in the earth behind them remains to tell their story. When in the Wilderness, please respect that record. Remember that all archaeological and historical sites and artifacts are protected by federal law and should not be disturbed.

The Tehama deer herd, the largest migratory herd in California, winters in the area. Other wildlife include wild hog, mountain lion, black bear, coyote, bobcat and rabbit. Most of the Ishi Wilderness is also a State Game Refuge where hunting is not permitted.

Deer and Mill Creeks are home to many types of fish. However, special fishing regulations are in effect for these streams. Please check the State of California’s Fishing Regulations before fishing.Photo: Lower Mill Creek A valid California fishing license is required.

Rock cliffs provide nesting sites for a variety of raptors including hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls. Other common sightings include wild turkey, quail, morning doves, canyon wrens, band-tailed pigeons, and myriad songbirds.

[Image] Hiking in the Ishi WildernessPLANNING & PACKING:
Things you might want to take along include waterproof matches, extra food, extra clothing, first aid kit, flashlight, space blanket (blanket made of light, heat reflective material), pocket knife, sunburn protection, insect repellent, toilet tissue, candle, compass and maps.

Water: Be prepared for bad weather. Even though Ishi’s climate is mild with little snow, there are a few winter days when the temperature drops below freezing. Hypothermia can be a concern in cold rains. Summers are blazing hot (often over 100 degrees) and inhospitable. Be sure to carry plenty of water. Check our Current Conditions page for forecasted weather.

Maps are the “street signs” of the wilderness. A topographical map is an essential backcountry “orienteering tool.” The elevation lines tell the story of the land and can give you a mental picture of the area. If you become lost or disoriented, the best way to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land is to climb to the nearest ridge. Start by orienting your map to the north, by compass, and pinpointing your exact location. Identifying creek drainage’s and their corresponding ridges will also help to keep your bearings.

Safety: Be aware! The low elevation and high temperatures of the wilderness make it the perfect environment for rattlesnakes, ticks and poison oak. Rattlesnakes are common during the late spring and summer months, and when temperatures soar, the snakes head toward the drainage’s. Keep a watchful eye while hiking. Ticks are most active from April through October. Use insect repellentsspecifically labeled effective against ticks, check pets and brush off your clothing frequently. Ticks usually crawl around for several hours before “biting”. Poison Oak is quite common in lower elevation woodlands and is most abundant in the spring. The best prevention is to avoid touching the plant and wearing a preventive lotion such as Tecnu®.

Campstove: Wood can be scarce in the Ishi, so camp stoves are recommended.

Water Filter: The crystal waters can be deceiving. They look clear, cold, and inviting but should never be taken for safe drinking water. Giardia is the hidden hazard. The best way to protect yourself from the microscopic organism is to carry a water filter with you. Boiling for three to five minutes will also destroy Giardia and other water organisms.

Shovel: Carry a small shovel for burying human waste, no deeper than six to eight inches. Here, nature provides a biological “disposal layer” where organic material decomposes rapidly. A shovel is also required if you plan to have campfire.

Lassen National Forest recommends the use of “NO TRACE” camping techniques. “NO TRACE” camping is an attitude that leads to enjoyment of the wilderness without changing or damaging it. Remember, “in the wilderness, you are the visitor.”

The Campsite: As you search for a comfortable site, look for one that won’t be damaged. Fragile areas such as lakeshores and damp meadows should be avoided. In order to perpetuate a high quality wilderness, PLEASE camp at least 100 feet away from water and trails.

Campfires: Wood can be scarce in the Ishi, so camp stoves are recommended. If you do use a campfire in a previously unused site, you can minimize the impact by not building a rock ring and by using a small pit dug in sandy soil. Carefully check the ashes by feeling them with your hands to be sure the fire is completely out. Bury the ashes and replace the soil, plants and rocks that you removed from the hole.
Fire patrols cannot fully prevent human-caused fires without the help of Forest visitors, please be careful with the use of fire. Campfire permits are required for campfires, cookstoves and lanterns that require fuel. Please check for campfire restrictions that may ban the use of campfires during very hot, dry conditions.

Cleaning up/Sanitation: There’s one general rule to remember: IF YOU CAN PACK IT IN FULL, YOU CAN PACK IT OUT EMPTY. Anything left behind creates an eyesore and a hazard to the local wildlife. Materials made of aluminum, plastic or glass will not break down in the soil and animals will dig them up, so please don’t bury them.
Wilderness travel means some special sanitation considerations. Carry a small shovel for burying human waste, no deeper than six to eight inches. Here, nature provides a biological “disposal layer” where organic material decomposes rapidly. Take care of sanitation needs at least 150 feet from open water. Nature will take care of the rest.

Horses and Pack Stock: Pack and saddle stock should be picketed at least 100 feet away from water, trails, campsites and meadows. Only tether horses to trees for short periods as hooves can cause damage to tree roots and plants.

On the Trail: With the increase in popularity of back country travel, it is more important than ever for everyone to follow the rules of common courtesy and good trail manners. To protect plants and prevent soil erosion, stay on the trail in single file. If you come across a fallen tree or other obstacle please notify the Ranger Station as soon as possible. Do not cut blazes on trees, it leaves permanent scars. Respect the solitude of others by keeping noise to a minimum.

With your help, our children’s children will have the opportunity to know this wild country as Ishi and the Yahi Yana did.
Wilderness makes up 8% of the Lassen National Forest’s 1.2 million acres. But Wilderness management is only part of the Forest’s multiple use story. The Forest helps meet timber and range needs, is a major supplier of recreation in Northeastern California and actively protects and enhances wildlife habitat, watershed, and cultural resources.

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