Lassen National Forest

Lassen National Forest

Infobox_protected_area | name = Lassen National Forest
iucn_category = VI

caption = Map of the United States
locator_x = 16
locator_y = 61
location =
nearest city = Susanville, California
lat_degrees = 40
lat_minutes = 30
lat_seconds = 01
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 121
long_minutes = 00
long_seconds = 01
long_direction = W
area = convert|1070344|acre|ha|lk=on
established = June 2, 1905
visitation_num =
visitation_year =
governing_body = U.S. Forest Service

Lassen National Forest is a national forest of 1,700 square miles (4,300 km2) in northeastern California. It is named after pioneer Peter Lassen, who mined, ranched and promoted the area to emigrant parties in the 1850s, before he was murdered, possibly by a disguntled emigrant.


Lassen National Forest is located about convert|80|mi|km east of Red Bluff, California. It is generally bounded by Sierra Nevada mountain range to the south, the Modoc Plateau to the east and California's Central Valley to the west. The forest is in parts of Lassen, Shasta, Tehama, Plumas, and Butte counties. [ [ Table 6 - NFS Acreage by State, Congressional District and County] - United States Forest Service - September 30, 2007] Forest headquarters is located in Susanville, California.

The forest was formed in 1905 when it was named one of the National Forest Reserves, which evolved into the National Forest system. [U.S. Statutes at Large, Vol. 33, Part 1, Chap. 288, p. 628. "An Act Providing for the transfer of forest reserves from the Department of Interior to the Department of Agriculture." H.R. 8460, Public Resolution No. 34.]

The forest was first named the Lassen Peak Forest Reserve because of Mt. Lassen, a volcano that is the southern-most of the Cascade Range volcanoes. Mt. Lassen erupted with explosive force in 1915. The forest surrounds Lassen Volcanic National Park. The forest has two major river systems as well as many lakes, cinder cones and lava flows . It is a major source of lumber products.

Cultural significance

Lassen National Forest is also the site of significant events in California history: Ishi Wilderness was the refuge of the "last wild Indian", Caribou Wilderness was one of first protected "primitive areas" decades before the federal wilderness system was established, and the volcanic explosion of Mt. Lassen was the first eruption to be witnessed and photographed in the history of the continental United States.

In August 1911, a young Native American was discovered inside a slaughterhouse in Oroville, California. Ishi, as he came to be known, became a celebrity as the last of the wild Indians, who had no previous contact with modern civilization. He lived on the grounds of the University of California, Berkeley with the sponsorship of anthropoligist Alfred Kroeber. The university had no protocol for keeping a living museum exhibit, so Kroeber arranged for Ishi's employment as a custodian.

Ishi was a member of the Southern Yana band of Native Americans. His name, Ishi, was merely the Yana word for man. He told Kroeber (through a Northern Yana translator) that it was culturally forbidden to utter one's own name. Ishi had been part of a small band of Native Americans who had been pushed out of the Northern Sacramento Valley by the intrusion of American immigrants. They lived in very rugged territory north of Oroville.

In 1908, a utility company crew surprised this band. Ishi and the three others fled, all except Ishi drowned crossing a creek. Ishi's hair was still burned in mourning when he went to Oroville, presumably to acquire food.

Ishi died in Berkeley in 1916 of tuberculosis. In 1984 Congress established the convert|41100|acre|ha|sing=on [An additional convert|240|acre|ha of the Ishi wilderness is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management for a total of convert|41340|acre|ha.] Ishi Wilderness in the dry, rugged, volcanic terrain, where the last band of Southern Yanas had sought refuge.(Visitors to this wilderness are advised by the United States Forest Service to visit only during cooler months because of a lack of water during the summer.)

A year before Ishi's death, Mt. Lassen exploded. Mt. Lassen is officially recognized as Lassen Peak by the United States Board on Geographic Names. Before the eruption on May 22, 1915, the smoking volcano became a tourist draw. Today, within Lassen Volcanic National Park, the area surrounding the volcano is known as the Devastated Area.

An ancient volcano, known as Mount Tehama is believed to have been much larger than Lassen Peak. Its explosion is responsible for the topography of the national forest and the national park: a volcanic rim, with elevations beginning at convert|6000|ft|m above sea level. ‎ The third historical resource is the convert|20000|acre|ha|sing=on Caribou Wilderness immediately east of the National Park. Caribou Wilderness received protection as a Primitive Area beginning in 1932. [Gerard, David "The Origins of the Federal Wilderness System," Ch.6]

In the 1920s, the managers of the Forest Service engaged in both an internal and external struggle regarding the agency's mission. Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall, forest service employees, each advocated setting aside some forest areas as wilderness off-limits to mining, logging, road construction and grazing.

The first primitive area was created in 1924 in New Mexico and is now named the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. But creation of primitive areas did not become a forest agency policy until 1929.

Externally, the National Park Service, sought to expand parks from existing public lands, primarily national forest lands. The forest service responded by creating primitive areas. Initially these new wilderness areas received no special protections other than the official designation. Caribou Primitive area became a likely candidate for primitive status as it shares the length of its western border with the national park.

Caribou Primitive Area received greater protection in 1939, when Interior Secretary Harold Ickes sought to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combine the national forests and the National Park Service into a new agency under the management of the United States Department of Interior. Roosevelt declined to act, but the threat of moving the Forest Service out of the United States Department of Agriculture resulted in greater protections for national forest wilderness areas. A congressional bill had earlier given the President authority to act on this new "Department of Conservation".

In 1964, Caribou was among the first group of federally protected wildernesses created by the first Wilderness Act. The Lassen forest also contains the convert|16335|acre|ha|sing=on Thousand Lakes Wilderness, [Adkinson, Ron "Wild Northern California" The Globe Piquet Press, 2001 p. 204] also created in 1964.


Lassen National Forest, encompassing a large area, has many recreational opportunities with two large lakes nearby, a national park in its midst and many campgrounds and hiking trails. The forest is easily accessible from San Francisco, Sacramento and Redding.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the forest and park.

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail ["The Bizz" as the trail is sometimes referred to, is named after Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1958-1980.] follows the rugged Susan River canyon for 16 of the trail's convert|25|mi|km|sing=on length . Built on what was once the roadbed of Southern Pacific's convert|130|mi|km|sing=on Fernley and Lassen Branch Railway, it has been converted to a riding and hiking trail . There are 12 river crossings and two tunnels along the trail with the Susan River segment being the most scenic with views of the canyon, river and mountains. Some camping is allowed on portions of the trail but some areas have camping restrictions.

The railroad operated from 1914 to 1956 and was officially abandoned by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1978.

The trail has four distinct seasons because of the elevation changes. The trail begins at convert|4200|ft|m on the east side of the Sierra and Cascade Ranges in Susanville, rises to a high point of convert|5500|ft|m at Westwood Junction then descends to the trails' end in the town of Westwood at convert|5100|ft|m elevation.

Spencer Meadows National Recreation Trail is a six-mile (10 km) path through aspen groves, meadow areas, incense cedar, and bubbling springs. Beginning at the junction of state routes 36 and 89, it goes through the forest and the national park, then connects with other trails inside the park.

Heart Lake National Recreation Trail is more than three miles (5 km) in length and follows Martin Creek with views of Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain within the national park.

An historic emigrant trail established in 1852 is the Nobles Emigrant Trail. A prospecting party led by William Nobles crossed from Indian Valley to Honey Lake Valley. Nobles was later hired to shift the stream of emigrants to the town of Shasta in hopes of increasing settlers' traffic into the town. The trail goes through Susanvilleand past the north side of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The Hat Creek Recreational Area of the forest has seven campgrounds scattered along the creek as well as large lava flows, lava tubes, hiking trails and views of Mount Lassen. Highway 89 follows Hat Creek through much of the forest. [US Forest Service map, Lassen National Forest 1990.]

Lake Almanor is just south of the forest with forest service land and campgrounds on the west shore. Pacific, Gas and Electric (P G and E) operate the convert|28257|acre|km2|sing=on lake which was aquired from Great Western Power Company in 1930 when they merged with P.G. and E.The North Fork of the Feather River is the source for Lake Almanor. The name of the lake is from the Great Western Power Company's vice-president, Guy C. Earl who combined the names of his three daughters, Alice, Martha and Elanor. [ [ Website of Project 2105 Committee, a citizens group involved in FERC relicensing of hydroelectric power at Lake Almanor] .] The forest service maintains 63 developed recreational sites and an indeterminate number of primitive campgrounds.


Peter Lassen

Peter Lassen will be long remembered with a mountain, creek, national park, county and national forest each carrying his name. He was ambitious, his timing was perfect, and, like his contemporary pioneer, Johann Augutus Sutter, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

His last notable achievement was to be murdered by an unknown person in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada Territory, [ Exploring Northeastern California History by historian Tim Purdy] ] two months after being profiled by Hutching's California Magazine. [ [ Volume III, No.32, p. 16 A PDF document of Hutchings Magazine from Yosemite Online Library.] ]

The profile is contained in the February, 1859 edition of Hutching's. Lassen was murdered April 29, 1859. The murderer was never found, but the list of suspects is long: Disgruntled clients of the Lassen Trail or various business associates were among those suspected.

The conclusion of the magazine profile includes this quote from Lassen: "Beware of bad partners, and nine-tenths of the lawyers, and if need be, add the other tenth, and thus eschew law and lawyers altogether." Apparently his killer heeded the advice.

Lassen, Edward Clapper and Americus Wyatt, were on a silver mining expedition, camped in the Black Rock Desert north of Virginia City, Nevada Territory. This was the beginning of the Comstock silver excitement in northern Nevada. Clapper and Lassen were shot and killed as the trio was breaking camp. Wyatt survived and was the only witness. Officially a band of Paiute Native Americans received blame but few pioneers believed the story.

Lassen's body was recovered and buried near his cabin at Honey Lake Valley. Clapper's remains remained in what is now known as Clapper Canyon. A partial skeleton was discovered there by hikers in 1991, and Clapper's remains have since been interred near Lassen's grave. [ [ Exploring Northeastern California History by historian Tim Purdy] ] The Lassen County seat, Susanville is in the Honey Lake Valley.

Peter Lassen, a native of Denmark, was born in 1800 and emigrated to Mexican California around 1840 from the Oregon Territory. Like Sutter, he acquired Mexican citizenship (1844) and applied for a land grant (1843) [ [] National Park Service Official website-Historynotes] of 5 square leagues [A square league is convert|4438|acre|km2-Lolle, Andrew "California, A History" 2nd ed. p.114] on the south bank of Deer Creek in what is now Butte County, California. This grant provided access to the Sacramento River, an important issue during the pioneer period for transportation of goods and people.

Lassen lost his estate around 1851 by mortgaging the land to further his business interests. He then migrated to the Honey Lake Valley where he attempted mining, and which is in modern-day Lassen County.

Lassen County was established in 1864, five years after his death. [Rolle, Andrew F. "California, A History" AHM Publishing Corp., 1969]

Lassen Peak Reserve

The beginnings of Lassen National Forest began in 1891 with congressional passage of what has become known as the Forest Reserve Act. This bill was actually entitled: "An Act To Repeal Timber Culture Laws And For Other Purposes." [ [ Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement] ] .

The first federal forest reserves were created soon after President William Harrison signed the repeal into law. Section 24 of the act authorized the President of the United States to set aside public lands as forest reserves without further permission from Congress.

In addition to Harrison, President William McKinley set aside forest lands, as did President Theodore Roosevelt, until Congress put a stop to the practice in 1907, by banning additional set asides in six western states. [ [ Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement] .]

California was not among those six states but was later added to the ban. [ [ Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement] ] .

Lassen Peak Reserve was not created until 1905, less than a month before Congress approved the Transfer Act, which took the reserves away from the General Land Office and the Department of Interior. Instead, the newly created U.S. Forest Service managed the lands under the Department of Agriculture. The reserves then became the National Forests. In 1908 Lassen absorbed portions of Diamond Mountain National Forest and exchanged lands with Plumas National Forest and Shasta National Forest] . [citation|title=PDFlink| [ National Forests of the United States] |341 KB|date=September 29, 2005|author=Davis, Richard C.|publisher=The Forest History Society]

Lassen National Park was carved from the Lassen National Forest in 1916, [U.S. Statutes at Large, Vol. 39, Part 1, Chap. 302, pp. 442-44. "An Act To establish the Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the State of California, and for other purposes." H.R. 348, Public Act No. 184] when Congress approved the creation of the National Park Service, administered by the Interior department. Lassen Peak already enjoyed protection as a National Monument, set aside by Roosevelt in 1907. [ [ Lassen area history notes from National Park Service official website] ] .

The uneasy relationship between the US Forest Service and the National Park Service continued for several decades, perhaps culminating in 1931 when Congress forbade Lassen National Park from expanding its boundaries. [ [ Lassen area history notes from National Park Service official website] ] .

Earlier, in 1906, Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forester in the Department of Agriculture, sought to move the national parks into the forest service. Pinchot was thwarted by Congressmam John F. Lacey, an ardent preservationist. Pinchot's goal was to subject the Parks to logging and other aspects of his "scientific management philosophy". [ [ Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement] ] .

Later, in 1939, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes proposed the opposite-of combining the national parks and forests into an agency that would take a preservationist approach. [Gerard, David "The Origins of the Federal Wilderness System" p.4, Ch.6]

See also

Geology of the Lassen volcanic area

Transfer Act of 1905


* Library of Congress American Memory - Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement, 1847-1920
* [ Lassen National Forest official website]
* [ Webpage on history of Peter Lassen's grave] .


External links

* [ Lassen National Forest official website]
* [ Volcanic Legacy Byway website] accessed 28 July 2008

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