U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Butte Valley National Grassland


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Forest Information

The Butte Valley National Grassland (NG) is comprised of 18,425 acres and located in northern California between Dorris and Macdoel. Overall administration is provided by the Klamath National Forest Supervisor's Office. There are no developed campgrounds.

The areas now designated as "grasslands" were settled in the 1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts" which opened the land to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s caused some homesteads on sub-marginal farmland (a location receiving 15 or less inches of annual moisture) to literally dry up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to stabilize the eroding soil by re-seeding it and applying other conservation techniques. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the USDA Forest Service which was tasked with management of these sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service has established some twenty National Grasslands. "The designation of the area as National Grassland is not a description of the area as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area to a multiple of uses and benefits."

Designated in 1991, Butte Valley NG is the youngest of all the grasslands. It is the only national grassland in California and may be the smallest in the country - you can stand in the middle of this grassland and see to its four boundaries. Besides early settlers draining, plowing, and grazing the land now known as Butte Valley NG, it was also used as a bombing range during World War II. These "manipulations" took its toll on the land but the Forest Service has been and continues to reclaim the land through a variety of methods.

Junipers are the only tree growing on the NG while sagebrush, bitterbrush, and greasewood are the dominate shrubs. The north side of the NG has a pre-homestead high desert appearance while the southern end has a grass prairie appearance. Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, kangaroo rats, and coyote make the NG their home along with a variety of reptiles but most of the wildlife is shy of humans. A wide variety of birds who frequent the NG are, on the other hand, easy to see.

The Butte Valley NG provides a great habitat for an amazing variety of songbirds and the adjoining Meiss Lake, in the Butte Valley Wildlife Area, attract thousands of migrating waterfowl each year. Between the NG and Wildlife Area, it is not unusual, even for a beginner, to see dozens of birds in a day of birdwatching. Bird watching may be Butte Valley NG's best recreational activity.

Camping is not a developed recreation activity on Butte Valley NG. There are no developed campgrounds or established camping areas. However, recreational vehicle enthusiasts, as well as car, tent, bicyclist, and other campers, are welcomed to dry camp on the NG. The authors found two areas on Sams Neck Rd. in the grassland where dispersed camping is possible. The first is [sort of] a corral at GPS coordinates N41 53.673; W121 59.759 and the other is further down the road at coordinates N41 54.118; W122 01.489. Fill your water jugs at the gas station in Macdoel, CA. You are asked only to practice good "leave no trace" camping techniques - leave your campsite as you found it.

Butte Valley NG is an easy drive from some large urban metropolitan area like Redding, CA and Klamath Falls, OR but few people have discovered it. True, it isn't very big but it does have some interesting discoveries if you are willing to stop and explore for a day or two.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 1312 Fairlane Road Yreka, California 96097-9549 530-842-6131 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Goosenest 37805 Hwy 97 Macdoel, CA 96058 530-398-4391

Fred and Suzi Dow