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Cessnock Provincial Forest

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Cessnock Provincial Forest
Sierran Hanzi: Ces s(i) knock Provincial α(adj.) Forest
View of the Sardine Buttes from De Witt Peak
Location Sutter County, Plumas, Sierra
39°32′56″N 120°44′14″W
Area 470,976 acres
(1,905.972 sq2)
Established 1972
Visitation 1,275,087 (2016)
Governing body Plumas Department of Parks and Recreation
Cessnock Provincial Forest (Sierran Hanzi: 塞斯敲州α森) is a provincial protected forest located in the Sierran province of Plumas, northwest of Lake Tahoe. It includes the 8,587-foot (2,617 m) peak of the Sardine Buttes near Sierra City, and borders the Plumas National Forest to the north and the Tahoe National Forest to the south. The forest has a total area of 470,976 acres (735.9 sq mi. or 1,905.972 sq2) and is the largest non-federally protected area in Plumas. The forest is directly administered by the Plumas Department of Parks and Recreation and is headquartered in Dappe. The Cessnock Provincial Forest predominantly covers Mediterranean montane vegetation, particularly of the yellow pine variety.

The forest is a common recreational destination, which offers dozens of lakes and reservoirs, canyons, caves, rolling hills, and hundreds of miles of accessible trails. Cessnock Provincial Forest's natural water supply is a major contributor to water needs for eastern Plumas, Tahoe, Reno, and Washumko. In recent years, various recreational facilities have been installed including ice rinks (operational year-round), archery ranges, and kayaking in select locations. Vehicle and bicycling traffic along the K.S. Routes 49 (Golden Chain Highway) and 89 are the primary means for transportation within the forest, and the two divides the park roughly into quadrants through the entirety of both of the highways' course through the forest. The other major route, Interprovincial 49 forms the southern boundary between Cessnock and the Tahoe National Forest. Numerous populated centers are located inside and surrounded by the forest including Juno, the Fort Sumter Band of Kaoiyu Indians, and Volksrust.

The forest has gained notoriety over the years with a local reputation for paranormal phenomena, including purported sightings of the legendary Snrith, Bigfoot, UFOs, ghostly apparitions, and mysterious creatures. Innumerable urban legend stories of Satanists, cannibals, brutal suicides, and kidnappings have risen in recent years. It is also a location of spiritual importance to the local Kuksu Cult.

In 2016, Cessnock Provincial Forest received nearly 1.3 million visitors, its highest in the forest's history and represents a continued upward trend in visitation. Compared to nearby national parks however, Cessnock receives substantially fewer visitors. Its relatively remote location from major population centers and smaller share in international tourists are cited as major reasons to its underperformance. Since 2010, the park has received ongoing renovations to meet the increasing visitation volume and numerous projects aimed towards shielding off natural reserves from the public (including wildlife crossings).



Over eighty percent of the forest is designated as highly-protected wilderness area, and is a bisection of the multi-provincial Tahoe National Park, which was established in 1905 by the Royal Park Service (RPS). The contemporary Cessnock Provincial Forest was established in 1972 in agreement between the province of Plumas and RPS, in which the federal government would cede over 400,000 acres of land that it owned in Plumas to the provincial government's Department of Parks and Recreation. It was agreed that the boundary line between Cessnock and Tahoe National Park would be Interprovincial 49, which ran through several populated centers. The initiative was motivated by growing demand for parks and recreational use of the large region.

The modern English name for the forest, Cessnock, is named after a neighborhood in the Scottish city of Glasgow, and was given its name by the Sierran Jacobites who settled the area in the mid-19th century following the Gold Rush and foundation of the new Sierran government. Various landmarks and geographic features in the region were originally named after Scottish places by the Jacobites. However, many of these locations in the area would later being reclaimed by the New Hollander Dutch from western Plumas and newer immigrant groups (including German-speaking Swabians and Mennonites). Nonetheless, the name Cessnock prevailed, even among other language speakers.

Native Sierrans

A modern recreation of a summertime Maidu hut on display in the forest grounds.

The forest area has been long known to have been inhabited by humans in as early as 8000 BC to 5000 BC. The forest provided home and shelter, as well as hunting and fishing grounds for various Native Sierran groups, including the Pomo people, the Maidu, and the Washoe. A large number of the natives lived in semi-underground housing structures built into the sides of mountain slopes. The natives lived without a formal political structure and were instead led by a small council of religious men charged primarily with arbitrating disputes and tribe-to-tribe relations. Evidence for historical settlement and culture can be found distributed throughout the park. Extensive amounts of rock art and petroglyphs have been found in the eastern section of the forest area, and such art were considered of reverent importance to the local Maidu. The local Kuksu religious cult predominated the local indigenous belief systems.

Contact between the indigenous population and Westerners did not occur until the early 19th century when Dutch-speaking settlers along Western Plumas and Spanish-speaking Californios pushed eastward into the Sierra Nevada. Interaction increased during the California Gold Rush as thousands of people from around the world came to the area in search of gold. Conflict over land use manifested in the late 19th-century Sierran-Indian Wars, before it was finally resolved in 1880 with the establishment of the modern Sierran Indian reservation system.

Today, the Fort Sumter Band of Kaoiyu Indians represents the largest and only federally recognized Indian tribe who have reservation land in the forest. Representing the largest Maidu community, reservation members have partnered with the Plumas Department of Parks and Recreation. The partnership stresses on meaningful dialogue and education about the Kaoiyu way of life and history, as well as protection of the forest environment through tour guides and other coordinated services. The reservation is located near the town of Juno and currently counts 5,672 permanent residential members.

Park creation and development

On July 3, 1972, Queen Elizabeth I assented to a bill passed by Parliament and presented to her by Prime Minister Kovrov Stoyanovich, authorizing the transfer of nearly a half of Tahoe National Forest's area to the provinces of Plumas for the purposes of localizing control in the Plumas portion of the Cessnock. It was the fourth provincial park to be established by the Province of Plumas and its largest. In 1958, much of the section had already been designated as wilderness area, protecting the forest from civilian and military development.

Concern over environmental impact in the region stalled negotiations and the transfer of ownership was not implemented until the province promised to restrict most activities and construction along the already existing K.S. Route 49, which travels through the area. Although technically qualifying as a provincial park, Plumas upheld the forest's official name as the Cessnock Provincial Forest, in homage to its primary commitment towards protecting the local environment and ecosystem.

In 2009, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy purchased Ermine Grove, a 600-acre tract of land near Sardine Buttes, for $5.6 million, to preserve the land and protect it from human development. In recent years, higher demand for human development (mainly real estate) in the area has met with fierce opposition from preservationists and environmental advocacy groups. Although twenty percent of the forest has been allotted to limited development, environmentalists fear that local residents and developers along the K.S. Route 49 would push to extend the exclusion zone into previously restricted parts of the forest.

In 1967, the Cessnock was enlarged to include forest area in between the existing northern boundary of the forest and the southern boundary of the Plumas National Forest, and new internal roads and pavement was created.


All of the Cessnock Provincial Forest lies within Sutter County. It is located just west of the central Sierra Nevada. It is surrounded by the Plumas National Forest to the north, the Tahoe National Forest to the south, and the Perry Wilderness to the east. The forest is home to hundreds of hills, lakes, ponds, and rivers, and features a large system of underground caves, canyons, and ravines throughout the park.


The Cessnock Provincial Forest has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (abbreviated Csb on climate maps under the Köppen system) although the forest's geography makes the area more continental and wetter than most Mediterranean areas. The forest experiences warm summers and mild winters, although nights can be very cool year-round, and it is not unusual for frosts to occur in even the summertime. Precipitation in the form of both rain and snow are strongest between the months of December and February, while July and August are typically the year's driest months.

Climate data for Cessnock Provincial Forest (Juno Weather Station)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
Average high °F (°C) 47.5
Average low °F (°C) 27.3
Record low °F (°C) 1
Average precipitation inches (mm) 11.681
Average snowfall inches (cm) 14.4
Average precipitation days 12 11 10 9 7 3 1 1 3 6 9 11 83
Source: Royal Meteorology and Climatology Office


A black bear strolling along a bush near the Salmon Buttes.

The Cessnock Provincial Forest contains over 32,000 square acres of old growth vegetation, a feat that was only made possible by the federal and provincial governments' efforts at halting logging operations and human development in the area. Nonetheless, significant portions of the forest, especially those closest to populated centers, have been altered substantially to logging and historic deforestation. Since the park's creation, local rangers and environmentalists have worked towards restoring damaged portions of the forest.

Cessnock's predominantly coniferous wooded areas are home to several species including coast Douglas-fir, red fir, white fir, sugar pines, Ponderosa pines, and the occasional giant sequoia. The forest's plant species diversity is relatively higher compared to surrounding areas. At higher elevations throughout the park, the forest yields more selective strains of species including the Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine, and foxtail pine.

The varied landscaping and habitats sustain a number of wildlife including black bears, raccoons, bobcats, river otters, coyotes, red foxes, mule deer, spotted owls, North American mountain lions, and skunks. In addition, species of pikas, marmots, and other rodents have been found in the forest. Historically, populations of the grizzly bear once roamed the forest, but have since been extirpated from the area since the 1940s.

All plant and animal life is protected under provincial law, and a number of species are additionally protected at the federal law by conservation statutes in place. About 26 species have been designated as an endangered species by either the Province of Plumas or the Kingdom. The forest's ecosystem's most serious threats come from wildfires, competition between native species with invasive ones, and fatal human interactions (much of which are purely accidental).

As a natural sanctuary for numerous endangered species, hunting any terrestrial or airborne species of animals is prohibited at the park, and is the entire forest is exempt from all open seasons. This protection does not extend to species of fish however, as fishing is permitted, albeit at certain locations only and only allowed for individuals with a fisher's permit.


Cessnock Provincial Forest is open year-round to the general public (road conditions permitting) and numerous activities are available through a number of authorized third-party companies, organizations, and the Plumas Parks and Recreational Department. The forest offers tours, hiking, nature walking, photography, art classes, birdwatching, scouting, kayaking, swimming, biking rentals, zip-lining, rock climbing classes, camping equipment, and archery practice.

Julys are typically the busiest month of the year, and during the peak summer season, as much as 2,500 park rangers are on-duty. In addition, over 60 lodging establishments ranging from chain motels to bed-and-breakfasts, accommodate the more than 75,000 visitors alone who stay in or near the park between the months of June and September. In recent years, increased visitation has prompted the government of Plumas to increase funding to support the park's services and roads. In 2016 alone, over 1.3 million visitors visited the park, setting a personal record in the park's nearly 50 years of history. Projections have indicated that such figures will only continue to increase, leading Parliament to approve a $150 million plan in 2017 to support the park's growth and expansion.

There are no tolls or entry gates posted along any of the three major highways running through the forest, or the public access roads to the forest's various communities. Entry gates are posted primarily along roads directly administered by the Plumas Department of Parks and Recreation, not the Department of Transportation. These gates are primarily located in the center of the park, where the most popular locations and activities are found. Depending on the season, general admission fees for visitors traveling by vehicles vary from 15 to 25 Sierran dollars at posted entrance gates. One-day or multi-day visitors traveling to multiple entry gates only pay once, and must carry a receipt proving their purchase for technical reentry without charge.

Throughout the park, there are numbered ranger stations staffed with provincial officials prepared for assistance and inquiries. In addition, several campsites, RV parks, and pit stops are owned by the department, and generally charge fees. The federal National Park Pass can be applied to Cessnock, granting cardholders access to any part of the park without paying any entrance fees.


The Clear Moon Festival is the largest event held within the forest. The festival features live music performances, contests, and eateries during the first week of August and is hosted by the Township of Juno and corporate sponsors. Under an agreement with the Plumas government, Juno has been leased 20 square acre land for use as the festival's fairgrounds indefinitely while the land remains officially unincorporated, outside the jurisdiction of Juno government. Various smaller festivals and events are also held on the campgrounds, including the annual Tournament of King's Men, a popular Renaissance-themed fair with real jousting matches and live medieval music concerts.



All major sections of the park are connected and accessible by roads. Three major highways run through the park, including K.S. Route 49 and Interprovincial 49. As both highways share the same number, they are generally distinguished in speech as either "K.S. 49" and "I-49". Due to federal and provincial agreements, special modifications to the highways' width, shoulders, clearances, and lanes have been made to minimize environmental impact, traffic accidents, and other concerns. The maximum speed limit throughout the forest on these limited-access roads is 60 miles per hour, or about 10 miles below the federal default speed (70 mph).




Jurisdiction and law enforcement

List of populated areas



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

Indian reservations

Paranormal phenomena

Cessnock Lights

The Cessnock Lights are supposedly bright orbs of lights that have been reported throughout the forest and the vicinity. The Cessnock Lights' appearance is similar to that of a floating flame when nearby the viewer, and more like a flashlight in the distance. The lights' colors ranges from bright blue to a sullen green, although some reports indicate that it may manifest in other colors including red or orange. Nearly all accounts of the lights have shown that they are most prominent just after sunset and float slowly between the trees. The lights do not produce any sound or seem to interact with one another if there are multiple sources, and they do not tend to light up their surroundings very brightly. Although the lights do not seem to produce any heat or cause flames to ignite, the lights may purportedly transpose the physical composition of its surroundings, including leaving scorched marks or blemishes on trees and rocks.

Sightings of the lights have been recorded since the early 19th century as settlers from Anglo-America began arriving in search of gold. Oral storytelling from the local Maidu peoples have also seemed to acknowledged the presence of similarly described lights in the forest. The lights began appearing more during the 1930s, coinciding with the completion of K.S. Route 49 in 1934, as road traffic became more commonplace to the road, leading some to believe that the cause of most, if not all reported lights at the time, to be the headlights from cars. Others however believed that the construction of such road disturbed the spirits of the forest.

Paranormal enthusiasts assert that such lights are examples of will-o'-the-wisps or the disembodied spiritual energy of lost souls. Others believe that the source of the lights come from low-flying UFOs or other extraterrestrial artifacts. Skeptics have proposed that the lights are merely natural phenomenon, caused by geothermal disturbances or merely misidentification of car headlights, campfires, or other sources.


The hellhounds of the Cessnock Provincial Forest are part of a continuum of similarly related creatures said to inhabit throughout the Kingdom. Descriptions of demonic dogs in the forest share similarities with those depicted in Dutch folklore, which was carried over by the New Hollander colonists in Western Plumas. The appearance and nature of the hellhounds are highly variable and allegedly manifest whenever people are angered, depressed, or distressed when walking in the forest. There have been claims of the legendary beasts roaming about near roads, and some may assume the demeanor of a docile or friendly dog at first, before turning aggressive and dangerous. There has never been any confirmed cases of feral dog attacks in the park, although a number of Internet hoaxes purport that as many as 18 people were killed. The majority of these alleged victims are officially declared missing persons, who were last seen within the park, while others are completely fictitious or unconfirmed.

Hitchhiker spirits


The famous Tolmhausen photograph of the Snrith

The Snrith is a bipedal humanoid being said to inhabit the Cessnock and other parts of northern Sierra. It has been described as a gaunt, emaciated creature with either charcoal-colored skin or deep pale skin. It has been linked with the ancient Kuksu spirit known as the Pomboko Maidem, as well as Plumas Dutch "Schaduwgeest" (Shadow people). Reports of the Snrith has been frequent, with the Royal Parks Service stating it received over 30 submissions and calls by visitors on an alleged encounter with the Snrith. Officially, the Royal Parks Service neither supports or discredits the factuality of these reports, or the creature itself, though it does mention it in pamphlets and official documentation for tourist purposes.

Snrith sightings have been concentrated around Juno where the creature is honored annually at the Snrith Festival during the final week of September. Scientists have proposed that sightings of the Snrith could be attributed to bears, owls, or other nocturnal animals, as most sightings seem to take place during the nighttime, though reports have been made even during the brightest hours of daylight.


See also