Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Bodfish Piute Cypress Grove
Forest: Sequoia National Forest
District: Kern River Ranger District
Description: A variety of rare and endemic plants is found with the Bodfish Piute Cypress Botanical Area. The 310 acre Bodfish Piute Cypress Botanical Area is managed by the Sequoia National Forest (NF). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the adjacent 865-acre parcel known as the Piute Cypress Area of Critical Environmental Concern. This area is known for its 700-acre grove of the rare Piute Cypress, closely related to the Arizona Cypress. This tree species is only known from 13 small groves around Lake Isabella in the southern Sierra Nevada. The Bodfish grove is the premier location of the known Piute cypress groves and the largest and oldest colony.
Piute Cypress trees average a lifespan of 200 years, but can live considerably longer. The oldest trees are estimated to be between 500 to 600 years old. Growing up to 45 feet tall and up to 29 inches in diameter, the Piute cypress is a fire dependent species. Occasional fires help with germination and clear out thick chaparral vegetation, which can inhibit succession. In 1921, a devastating crown-fire burned 200 acres in the Bodfish grove yet over the past 80 plus years the trees have re-grown up to 20 feet. The Bodfish Piute Cypress grove grows on deep red soils, derived from the Bodfish Olivene gabbro, a dark plutonic rock. Because gabbro has a large proportion of iron and magnesium minerals, it is black colored in fresh exposures. However, when it has weathered, it acquires a bright red color from oxidation (rust).
Several other sensitive plants are found within or near the grove, such as adobe yampah, Piute Mountain jewel-flower, Piute buckwheat, Piute Mountain navarretia, and Kern County larkspur. The Piute Mountain jewel-flower blooms in late April to May in the lower portion of the Grove, along the roadside.
Viewing Information: To get to the area take Caliente Bodfish Road about 3 miles south of the town of Bodfish and turn east onto Saddle Springs Road (27S02). This is a rough dirt road with a lot of bumpy washboards and small ruts. High clearance vehicles are recommended, although if you drive slow and are experienced on such roads you can make it in a low clearance 2 wheel drive. The botanical area begins about 3 ½ miles up Saddle Springs Road, at the Forest boundary. This road is closed every year from the late Fall (November) to the early Spring (April) because of snow. Once you are in the Botanical Area, park along the roadside, making sure not to block traffic.
After parking, you can hike into the grove, either above or below the road. There are no developed hiking trails within the Bodfish Piute Cypress Botanical Area. The lower Grove (BLM portion) is approximately 250 years old. The upper (FS) part is around 80 years old. The Piute Mountain Jewel-flower blooms along Saddle Springs Road, within the grove, from late April to mid-May.
There is a short, rough hiking trail (1 mile round-trip) above the Botanical Area leading to the summit of Bald Eagle Peak. It starts about 6.5 miles up the Saddle Springs road (from the Bodfish-Caliente intersection) on the right-hand (west) side, above the upper set of switchbacks.
Safety First: Both of these roads (Bodfish-Caliente & Saddle Springs) are steep curvy two-lane mountain roads so exercise caution when driving. Always carry a map, food, water, and extra clothing when hiking. Be sure to wear (comfortable) hiking boots, as well.
Directions: To get to the area, take Caliente Bodfish Road about 3 miles south of the town of Bodfish and turn east onto Saddle Springs Road (27S02). This is a rough dirt road with a lot of bumpy washboards and small ruts. High clearance vehicles are recommended, although if you drive slow and are experienced on such roads you can make it in a low clearance 2 wheel drive. The botanical area begins about 3 ½ miles up the Saddle Springs road at the Forest boundary. This road is closed every year for the late Fall (November) to the early Spring (April) because of snow. Once you are in the Botanical Area, You can park along the roadside, making sure not to block traffic.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest, Kern River Ranger District. Phone: (760) 379-5646.
Closest Town: The nearest town with services is Lake Isabella, California (8 miles north).