Siskiyou County is a county located in the far northernmost part of the U.S. state of California, in the Shasta Cascade region on the Oregon border. Yreka is the county seat. Because of its outdoor recreation opportunities and Gold Rush era history, it is an important tourist destination within the state. The population was 44,900 at the 2010 census.
Siskiyou County was created on March 22, 1852, from parts of Shasta and Klamath Counties, and named after the Siskiyou mountain range. Parts of the county's territory were given to Modoc County in 1855.
The county is the site of the central section of the Siskiyou Trail, which ran between California's Central Valley and the Pacific Northwest. The Siskiyou Trail followed Native American footpaths, and was extended by Hudson's Bay Company trappers in the 1830s. Its length was increased by "Forty-Niners" during the California Gold Rush.
After the discovery of an important gold strike near today’s Yreka, California in 1851, prospectors flooded the area. This was described in detail by Joaquin Miller in his semi-autobiographical novel Life Amongst the Modocs.
In the mid 1880s, the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad along the Siskiyou Trail brought the a first wave of tourism. Visitors were drawn by the county’s many summer resorts, and to hunt or fish in the largely untouched region. The Southern Pacific railroad, the successor to the Central Pacific, called its rail line the “The Road of A Thousand Wonders.”
In the early 1940s, Siskiyou County was home to the semi-serious State of Jefferson movement, which sought to create a new state from several counties of northern California and the adjoining counties of southern Oregon. The movement has seen a revival in recent years.
The origin of the word Siskiyou is not known. It may be Chinook word for a "bob-tailed horse," or as was argued before the State Senate in 1852, from the French Six Cailloux (six stones), a name given to a ford on the Umpqua River by Michel LaFrambois and his Hudson's Bay Company trappers in 1832. Others claim the Six Cailloux name was appropriated by Stephen Meek, another Hudson's Bay Company trapper who discovered Scott Valley, for a crossing on the Klamath River near Hornbrook.
The County is home to the Black Bear Ranch, a commune started in 1968 with the slogan "Free Land for free people."
On September 4, 2013, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to secede from the State of California.