Eight Dollar Mountain
Explore the unique flora and ancient geology in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers.
by Bill Sullivan
Almost perfectly conical, this 3-mile-wide mountain rises above the Illinois River in the heart of the Klamath Mountains of Southwest Oregon. Although it looks like a volcano, it's actually an erosional remnant that includes some of Oregon's oldest rocks. The reddish peridotite here produces a soil so infertile that plants have struggled to adapt.
As a result, Eight Dollar Mountain is an island of botanical diversity, home to odd bogs and an astonishing variety of rare flowers. You can sample the area with a half-mile stroll along a new boardwalk.
With the purchase of 650 acres by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department last year, all of Eight Dollar Mountain is now in public or non-profit ownership.
The landscape here is strange in many ways. Although Eight Dollar Mountain receives more than 60 inches of rain a year, the rock has so few nutrients that pine trees here are sparse and stunted. At first glance some slopes resemble a desert.
The mountain is so conical that it has virtually no creeks. Instead runoff oozes downhill through vast fens, boggy slopes punctuated with the baseball-bat shapes of pitcher plants – a carnivorous plant that creates its own fertilizer by catching and dissolving insects.
To drive here from Grants Pass, take Highway 199 south 24 miles. At milepost 24, turn right on Eight Dollar Road for 0.9 mile to a marked gravel parking area on the left. Walk up a paved road to the right 200 yards to find the start of the 0.2-mile boardwalk.
For more information about this and other trails in the Klamath Mountains, check out William L. Sullivan's new third edition of "100 Hikes in Southern Oregon."
Photos by Wendell Wood.