A Sasquatch Field Project in Northern California: Report of the 1997 Six Rivers National Forest Expedition

By J. Richard Greenwell, D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Mark T. Slack and Darwin A. Greenwell

With the release of the NAWAC's Ouachita Project Monograph, we thought it might be good to revisit the 1997 Six Rivers Expedition field report from Greenwell and Meldrum. We originally included this report on our website in 2007 and it seemed now was a good time to bring attention to it again. Greenwell's team was in the field for three weeks and made some observations and recovered some evidence that would later share commonality with the observations and evidence years later of the NAWAC in the Ouachita Mountain Ecoregion. Greenwell's team may have made many more observations and recovered key evidence had they remained onsite for 60-120 days. It's a brief but nonetheless relevant report. - Daryl Colyer


Introduction

Beginning in the 1950s, the U.S. media and public became gradually aware of reports in North America of large, bipedal apes not referable to any known living species. Such cryptozoological reports have emanated mainly from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, where the supposed animal became known as Bigfoot, and Western Canada, where it has become known as Sasquatch, a name which derives from an American Indian term for "wild people." The two names are now synonymous, but we prefer Sasquatch. For a detailed history of the evidence up to about 20 years ago, see John Green (1978). 

With some exceptions (e.g. John Napier, 1973; Grover S. Krantz, 1992), scientists have ignored such reports, or, perhaps even worse, have derided them. Thus, contrary to the original spirit of scientific inquiry, and, in fact, of scientific procedure, the biological scientists whose areas most relate to the subject — zoologists, primatologists, and physical anthropologists — have essentially cut themselves off from receiving such information.

As a consequence of such self-imposed insulation, a curious situation exists today, one in which most biological scientists remain almost totally ignorant of the nature and extent of the evidence involved, assuming all of it to be spurious. This situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future unless persuasive new evidence is produced by highly reliable investigators.

Our premise is that, ultimately, given enough effort, any scientific problem is soluble. Concerning this particular problem, one statement can be made with confidence: if this species — assuming it exists — were easy to find, and its existence easy to prove, this would already have occurred, and it would no longer be a cryptozoological problem.

The fieldwork being reported here is the first of what may be a series of such efforts over a number of years. We conducted the fieldwork over a three-week period in August of 1997. Specifically, our purpose was to attempt to apply and utilize, for the first time, scientific methodology and specialized equipment in a remote field setting with the aim of obtaining evidence for this supposed large bipedal primate.

Narrative Description

The fieldwork was conducted in the Siskiyou Wilderness, the least visited — and least known — Wilderness Area in the United States. The Siskiyou Wilderness is located within the Six Rivers National Forest and the Klamath National Forest, in Northern California, directly south of the Oregon border.
The Siskiyou Wilderness.

The equipment and materials transported into the Wilderness weighed about 500 pounds (227 kg). Four llamas were used as pack animals; they were responsible for transporting about 300 pounds (136 kg). The remaining ca. 200 pounds (91 kg) were carried in on foot by the four Expedition members. The mountainous terrain was steep, rugged, and often difficult to negotiate, resulting in numerous physical and logistical obstacles being encountered and having to be overcome. Temperatures varied widely, sometimes reaching 92 F (33 C) during the day, and below freezing at night. Rain, mist, and associated moisture and humidity affected the performance of some of the deployed electronic sensors.

We spent the first week at a preliminary camp in a box canyon. The second and third weeks were spent at a permanent camp below a cliff in valley farther north; we built a hide overlooking this camp for day and night observing, and observing was also conducted from nearby peaks. In addition, two of us (Meldrum and Slack) conducted a three-day recon trip even farther north into the Siskiyous. The Expedition is documented by about 500 photographs, and about four hours of Hi-8 videotape.

Our electronic or specialized equipment consisted of the following: amplifier/speaker system for primate vocalizations; a 21" x 16" (53 cm x 40 cm) solar panel with a rechargeable 12 v. battery; a digital audio-disk recorder with a microphone; two small directional sound enhancers; large directional sound enhancer with a parabola; two seismic intrusion ground detectors; two infra-red beam thermal detectors; two central mmonitors for the seismic and infra-red beam detectors; two hand-held infra-red thermal detectors; four optical binoculars; two pairs of 3rd generation night-vision binoculars; two pairs of 3rd generation night-vision nightcams (scopes); one Super-8mm movie film camera with three 50 ft (15 m) film cartridges; one 16mm movie film camera with two 100 ft (30 m) film canisters; four 35mm SLR photographic cameras; three 35mm SLR photographic camera telephoto lenses; one flash unit for the 35mm cameras; one 35mm photographic camera with a built-in telephoto lens and flash; two remote infra-red thermal triggering units for 35mm cameras; two 35mm photographic cameras for the remote infra-red thermal trigerring units; 35 rolls of color print film (10x200ASA, 20x400ASA, 5x800ASA); three High-8 video camcorders, each with two 2-hour tapes; one VHS camcorder with two 2-hour tapes; three tripods for 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and video cameras, and binoculars; three monopods for 35mm and video cameras, and binoculars; an infra-red rangefinder/compass; an electronic altimeter/barometer/thermometer ; a satellite radio-telephone; two field (two-way) radios; batteries for everything.

During the course of the Expedition we were exposed to various kinds of evidence supporting our working hypothesis that a form of large bipedal primate reported previously by thousands of witnesses does, in fact, exist in North America. We have divided this evidence into four general categories, as follows:

Tracks. Bipedal tracks were found on August 11, the second day of the on-foot penetration of the Siskiyou Wilderness, on a gravelly/sandy saddle above, and south of, the box canyon in which we established our first camp. Most of the tracks formed part of a line heading northward up the saddle, measured only about 10 inches (25 cm) in length, and appeared to be several days old. They were of human-like, bare feet, with faint toe imprints. At least two other similar but larger tracks, these measuring about 16 inches (40 cm) in length, were found heading southward down the saddle. These larger tracks were thought to be very recent, and one of them was fairly clear and had sharp edges.

One of us, Slack, is a professional guide, tracker, and hunter who has worked in the Siskiyous since 1980. Another of us, Meldrum, is a professional biologist specializing in primate anatomy, particularly the functional morphology of the ape foot. Even so, we could not attribute any of the tracks to known North American animals, and they were thus interpreted probably having been deposited by Sasquatches, with the 10-inch (25cm) tracks presumably those of a juvenile.

On August 21, during the recon northward, Meldrum and Slack encountered a number of fresh and fairly clear 16-inch (40 cm) bipedal tracks in the thin duff accumulated on a trail. The trackmaker had ascended a slope onto the trail before continuing farther up the slope. The stride measured 60 inches (152 cm).

A series of fresh bipedal tracks, also about 16 inches (40 cm) in length were found on the morning of August 23, during the same recon, one very close to Meldrum's tent. (During the previous night, Meldrum, from within his tent, had heard the trackmaker pass near the proximal end of the tent, which was then jolted upwards — see below.) These tracks were impressed on damp, grassy ground, so no anatomical details were discernable. The step of these tracks was about 45 inches (114 cm). (A step is the distance between the heel of one foot and the heel of the opposite foot. A stride is the distance between the heel of one foot and the heel of the same foot at its subsequent contact.) Further investigation on that same day revealed old bipedal tracks about 13 - 14 inches (33 - 36 cm) in length, embedded in about 1 - 1.5 in (2.5 - 4 cm) of mud.

We found many other animal tracks during the fieldwork, but all of were identifiable as having been deposited by known animals, particularly deer and black bear, of which there were many in the area. The compacted soils and rocky terrain of the Siskiyou Wilderness did not lend itself to clear track deposition. Very clear bear tracks, for example, were found only on the mud flats bordering an off-trail lake. In general, we were impressed by the very low percentage of suitable substrate for track deposition.

Vocalizations. During the first week, D. Greenwell heard what sounded like the terminal end of an unidentified howl emanating from Dillon Creek about 4 miles (7 km) to the east. A howl was also heard by Slack on the night of August 21, during the recon north. Meldrum, who was sleeping, awoke in time to hear the terminal end of this howl, which is believed to have originated from the Harrington drainage.

We repeatedly conducted night-time broadcasts into the environment of supposed Sasquatch vocalizations and gorilla vocalizations, and, on one night, human infant vocalizations. These broadcasts were made from a high ridge northwards towards the Oregon border and southeastwards towards the Dillon drainage. The purpose of the broadcasts was to serve as an attractant. On the night of August 24, during a broadcast towards the Dillon Creek, R. Greenwell and D. Greenwell heard two short, unidentified, high-pitched calls several minutes apart. Soon afterwards, low-pitched "mumblings" were also heard. These vocalizations were believed to have emanated from some distance, either from the direction of Dillon Creek to the east, or from a point farther to the south. None of the vocalizations reported above were attributable to known animals.

Other vocalizations, such as clicks, whistles, and "grumblings," are included in the "camp visitations" section below.

Rock-throwing. Numerous instances of what we interpreted as rock-throwing were heard by all of us at different times in the two camps, both of which were located below high cliffs, as well as once on the recon farther north at a spot where there was no cliff. These phenomena generally occurred, sometimes repeatedly, in the evening — while still light — or at night. The rocks appeared to strike other rocks before rolling some distance, thus sounding like they had been thrown. We never actually observed rocks in motion after being thrown, or after falling.

Camp Visitations. We were also exposed to a complex of behaviors, some accompanied by sounds, and some leaving physical traces, which we generically group under the label of "camp visitations." The first such instance occurred on the night of August 15, sometime after 11 p.m. About 10 minutes after zipping himself inside his sleeping bag and turning out his light, R. Greenwell heard what he interpreted as heavy, bipedal footsteps very close to his tent. The steps were perceived as slow and deliberate, giving the subjective impression of caution. Meldrum and Greenwell were absent at the time, having returned to the trailhead to collect additional equipment, and Slack was already asleep in his own tent. immediate visual inspection of the area using flashlights failed to uncover the cause of the footsteps. No tracks or camp disturbances were apparent in the morning. The substrate in the immediate area was not good for track deposition.

On the night of August 22, during their recon north, Meldrum and Slack jointly heard sounds they attributed to camp visitations by two entities. These sounds included clicks and whistles going back and forth from opposite sides of the camp, what sounded like drumming on a log using hard sticks or rocks (both of these phenomena are reported in the Sasquatch literature), and fast bipedal footsteps going through the camp itself.

Later during that same night, between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., both Meldrum and Slack distinctly heard Slack's backpack being disturbed, but, as they unzipped their sleeping bags and tents, the entity in question rapidly left the area before being observed. Upon inspection with flashlights, it was found that a protective rain poncho which had been placed over the backpack — which was leaning upright against a tree- -had been pulled back, and the backpack had been opened and its contents rifled. About half an hour later, Meldrum heard heavy footsteps passing very close to his tent, and then its proximal end — which had no tie-down cords — being bumped and jolted upwards. (Tracks were found by the tent in the morning — see above.) The next incidents occurred on the night of August 25, with all of us back together at the main base camp. We had zipped ourselves into our individual tents and sleeping bags for the night, but R. Greenwell still his light on. Something was first heard by Meldrum disturbing his backpack, which was covered by a large, plastic garbage bag. Before he reacted to this, a bipedal entity was heard to run forcefully between his and Slack's tents, and, at the same time, both Meldrum and Slack distinctly heard a sweeping sound which they interpreted as hair brushing against the side of Meldrum's tent. The steps sounded "padded," unlike the characteristic sound of heavy boots.

The distance between the two tents was about 1 foot (30 cm), a width that a bear could not easily have negotiated so rapidly. Deer tracks, which certainly would have been evident if sharp deer hooves had been involved, were not present. All that was visible on the compacted ground was an unidentifiable scuff mark.

Later that night, during almost continual rain, Meldrum and R. Greenwell heard what sounded like somebody going through a backpack. In the morning, it was found that the rain poncho covering Slack's backpack — which was standing upright against a tree — had been removed, the backpack's flap had been pulled back, and the backpack itself had been extensively rifled, with all of its contents moved around. Slack's sleeping bag stuff sack, which he had placed at the bottom to keep dry, had been taken out and left standing open on the ground, getting soaked by rain as a consequence. The backpack was also left open. This same stuff sack had been used previously as a temporary food bag.

Base camp.It was also found that a zip-lock plastic bag containing 34 individual packets of instant oatmeal — almost the entire supply of oatmeal we had left — had disappeared; it had been carefully removed from the large plastic food bag. The food bag, which was always kept twisted closed, and always kept about 40 feet (12 m) from the tents in case of nocturnal bear visitations, was found open the next day by R. Greenwell. There were no tears or claw marks on the food bag, and no remnants of oatmeal were found in the vicinity of the camp. It should be noted that oatmeal has a much lower olfactory stimulus — and nutritional content — than most of the other preserved foods that were in the bag, and that, while bears and other carnivores have a very acute sense of smell, primates, particularly higher primates, do not.

No tracks were found the next day. The ground within the camp was either hard, compacted soil on which no track could be deposited, or rocky substrate that would likewise leave no track. The only nearby area suitable for some form of track impression was a grassy meadow to the south, where the food bag was kept. Because of repeated rainfall over the previous days, this area had become mushy; furthermore, it was crisscrossed extensively by many of our own tracks, and no visible unidentifiable tracks were apparent.

On August 26, we removed two infra-red beam, camera-triggering units from nearby ridges and set them up in camp, one aimed across the camp and the other directly at the food bag. Night time observing from the camp's specially constructed observation hide was conducted using night-vision binoculars by R. Greenwell and D. Greenwell until 1:30 a.m., and then by R. Greenwell and Slack until 3:30 a.m., when the temperature dropped to near freezing.

Nothing unusual was seen or heard from the hide. However, D. Greenwell, after he was relieved by Slack and was attempting to sleep in his tent, heard heavy bipedal footsteps about 20 - 25 feet (6 - 8 m) to the northeast at about 2 a.m. This area was not under observation at the time by R. Greenwell and Slack, who were concentrating on the area of the food bag within the camp. At about 6:20 a.m. (now the morning of August 27), after sleeping for about two hours, Slack heard heavy breathing and sniffing noises very close to his and Meldrum's tents, and thought that it might be a bear. A few minutes later, he heard disturbances in the camp and awoke Meldrum.

The disturbances occurred around the campfire, which was by then practically extinguished, and they were heard about every two minutes. Slack then decided to investigate, but as he unzipped his sleeping bag and the inner and outer linings of his tent, he heard the bipedal steps of two entities running in opposite directions, one towards the east entrance to the camp, and the other from near the campfire westward towards the brush and rocks below the cliff, where he heard the clatter of rocks. (Meldrum, who was not fully awake, heard only rocks falling.) Although there was now daylight, both entities had disappeared by the time Slack got out of his tent.

At 6:35 a.m., Slack heard "muttering" or "grumbling" noises that sounded like muted human conversation coming from the direction of the cliff to the west. He sat up to listen more carefully, and then heard what sounded like a single bipedal entity running from near the campfire through the camp toward the cliff. There were no further camp disturbances, and Slack went back to sleep.

No food was taken during that night, no tracks were found in the morning, and no cameras were triggered by the two infra-red beam units. However, we later found that the internal battery of the infra-red unit aimed across the camp had become loose — probably a result of its rough transportation down from one of the ridges — rendering the unit useless.

We moved back to our initial camp in the box canyon on August 27 in preparation for extraction from the Siskiyous. Early into that night, three fast and heavy steps were heard very close to Meldrum's tent by Meldrum, R. Greenwell and D. Greenwell. Slack was already asleep, and heard nothing. Observing was then done during much of the night by R. Greenwell using night-vision binoculars, but nothing unusual was seen.

One of us (Meldrum) is of the opinion that the steps heard that night probably resulted from an echo effect involving one of the llamas, which for the first time, had been staked near the tents in camp, to the west. Two of us (R. Greenwell and D. Greenwell), whose tents were positioned north of Meldrum's, disagree with this assessment, as they interpreted the sound of the footsteps as coming directly from the south — the location of Meldrum's tent.

No further visitations occurred, and all four expedition members and four llarnas arrived safely back at the trailhead on August 28. We returned to Eureka on August 29.

Results

Although we utilized various kinds of electronic, photographic, and devices, no images were recorded, and no sightings occurred, of any primate entity known as Sasquatch.

Despite the lack of visual or photographic evidence, we encountered various kinds of other evidence that strongly indicate the presence of the reported large bipedal primate known as Sasquatch. These are represented tracks, vocalizations, rock throwing, and camp visitations — including stealing of food.

We have attempted to apply conventional explanations to these phenomena. While some such evidence could conceivably be explained conventionally, we have concluded that most of the evidence cannot be attributed to conventional causes. Known animals, including bears, cannot be invoked as an explanation, even for the food stealing. When entering camps, bears make no attempt at elusiveness, and, when taken, food is scattered about, with extensive clawing and chewing of food bags — as well as everything else camp. One of us (Slack) has had many years of personal experience with black bears in Northern California, and we discount such animals as cause of the visitations.

Hoaxing by elusive humans could not have been the cause, as such individuals could not possibly have remained — and subsisted — in the area without detection by us. Hoaxing by one or two of us unbeknownst to other Expedition members is also ruled out, as all four of us were exposed to almost all the different kinds of evidence at different times and in different places, sometimes when we were all present and accounted for, and sometimes when other team members where not in the vicinity.

Thus, in order to adequately explain these occurrences, we are forced, by a process of elimination, to invoke the probability that a large bipedal primate — one that has been continually reported by thousands of witnesses for over a century, and is known today as Sasquatch or Bigfoot — occurs in North America at the present time quite unknown to science.

We realize that this hypothesis is not one that is readily acceptable to zoologists or anthropologists, as the existence of such a primate in North America is not encompassed by conventional theoretical propositions or supported by probative physical evidence. We also realize that the evidence we have produced is not definitive or conclusive, being, in many instances, subjective.

Nevertheless, we consider ourselves to be cautious, sensible, and objective individuals, and, as the ones who were exposed to the evidence described above, it is our opinion that future fieldwork of this kind is certainly warranted.

We would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their support and/or cooperation: Gene Graber and the staff of the Orleans Ranger Station, Six Rivers National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, Orleans, California; Berle Williams, Qual-Tron, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma; Larry Curfiss, ITT Night Vision, Inc., Roanoke, Virginia; David Bittner, Pixel Workshop, Inc., Columbia, Maryland; Wally Sarrels, Solar Turtle Inc., Tucson, Arizona; Karl Thomas, Tucson, Arizona; Beth Ingraham, Montague, California; Linda Connolly, Fort Jones, California; Ronald Brown, Lake Mathews, California; and Pete Jurek, Eureka, California.

Future Plans

We are currently working on various refinements of both strategy and equipment with the aim of increasing the probability of documenting the presence of this unverified primate. Environmental conditions, especially moisture, severely affected the performance of some of our instrumentation, particularly the monitor-triggering infra-red beam thermal detectors, which repeatedly signaled erratically during heavy mist. Likewise, subterranean rodent activity resulted in numerous false triggerings of the seismic detectors; most subsurface ground conditions in the area proved, in any case, to be inadequate for the deployment of such seismic detectors.

Other problems have been identified and corrective measures are being evaluated, and other remote sensing and recording methods are also being considered. Subject to funding, further fieldwork will be conducted in the summer of 1998.

From: Cryptozoology, 13, 1997-1998

References

Green, J. (1978) Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. Seattle, Washington: Hancock House

Krantz, G. (1992). Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch. Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books.

Napier, J. (1973). Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality. New York, New York: E. P. Dutton.


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