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Hwy 263 Yreka, CA 96097
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The State of Jefferson Scenic Byway derives its name from an early 1940’s movement to create the 49th state. The original purpose of this movement was to draw attention to the need for good roads in far Northern California and Southern Oregon. In 1941, locals blockaded Highway 96 and declared Jefferson to be its own state. Many believed that Jefferson would have become the 49th state in the Union had the bombing in Pearl Harbor not focused the nation on war in the Pacific. The mighty Klamath River, called the “Clamet” by Native Americans, continues to shape the lifestyle and landscape of Northern California. Tribal people fished for the plentiful salmon and mussels, and hunted deer. Today the Klamath River is popular for its scenic beauty, as well as its extensive recreational opportunities such as fishing and rafting.

The byway begins in the area of where Hwy. 96 meets Interstate 5 near Yreka. A section of highway that should not be missed is the current Hwy. 263 from Yreka to Hwy. 96. A series of five bridges, considered engineering marvels in 1929, created this section of road. The section of the byway from the Interstate to Happy Camp has a rich gold mining history. Originally known for the rich placer claims, miners eventually sought out the gold veins and dug deep tunnels in the mountainsides along the river. At various times of this area’s rich mining history, literally thousands of miners lived in the area from Klamath River to Happy Camp.

By 1920, the area became known for its fishing and boating opportunities, with President Herbert Hoover coming to fish the Klamath in 1933. The community of Klamath River also offers one of the most beautiful river setting golf courses in California. Although Eagles Nest Golf Course is only 9 holes, it is extremely challenging and provides a great workout. The area from Horse Creek to Seaid Valley was also dramatically affected by the gold rush. Huge dredges chewed up hundreds of acres of the river riparian habitat. The Seaid Valley has since been used for farming and ranching, and is now recognized as the northern most wine grape growing region in California. Here white Reisling grape vines actually grow through the dredger rock rubble. Happy Camp, the half way point on the byway has a colorful history revolving around gold and copper mining, sawmills and logging, salmon and steelhead fishing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, as well as hunting and wild mushroom harvesting. The town is also the home to the Karuk tribe and serves as the major service community along the route.

At Happy Camp, the scenic byway leaves Hwy. 96 and climbs Grayback Mountain into Oregon. This 5,000 foot elevation route over Grayback offers numerous Forest Service roads leading to a variety of natural, historic, and recreation areas off the byway. The route over Grayback could be considered a botanical tree tour. This eight mile ascent in elevation offers an opportunity to view the changing variety of tree species. A beautiful overlook of the distant Marble Mountains with interpretive panels describing the resource management and history of the area can be seen from the summit of Grayback. The byway now descends into Oregon and eventually ends at the Illinois River valley community of O’Brien. At this point a turn south on Hwy. 199 leads you back into California and onto the Smith River Scenic Byway.

Drive Tips
Distance: 108 miles
Minimum Driving Time: 3-4 hours
Best Time to go: Year-round for the Hwy. 96 portion, with Grayback Summit being closed during the winter months. 

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