Morels and Porcinis in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest

On the Mushroom Trail

If you follow our adventures, most of you know that we head to the Pacific Northwest each year to chase burn morels. Although we usually trek West one week before and one week after Memorial Day Weekend, this year we had a very important event to be back for – high school graduation! We watch the weather like hawks for up to a month prior to the trip, and Mother Nature really wasn’t participating – hot, hot and dry weather in Oregon, not a drop of rain. We deliberated much – should we go to Arizona and California instead? The weather looked only marginally better during this timeframe. Washington? A much farther trek. In the end, the forecast changed and the rains were in sight, so we decided to head back to one of our favorite areas, Southern Oregon. Was it the right decision? Read on… 

Hitting the Road

Most all of Oregon’s A burns this year were centralized in the Southern region. In years past we have spent most of our time in and around Bend, Prineville and the Northeast. This year we camped for a week in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest around Crater Lake National Park and Prospect, Oregon. Instead of chasing burn morels at different burns around the West, we settled into a superb camp spot on a small river between Crater lake and Prospect. Friends joined us and we stayed a week. Our expectations for burn morels were running high. After a snowy winter, a cold spring, a month of hot and dry the rain had just started a few days earlier. And there was a lot of rain in the forecast. We were hoping the burn morels would pop.

Burn Morels

Turns out Mother Nature had other plans. Even though there were plenty of burned forests in the area, the morels never flushed while we were there. We explored hard for over a week and found morels but never in abundance. We visited burns from 3000 to 4800 feet and did best around 4400 feet. Same results for natural yellow and black morels in the area. A few savvy locals were selling natural morels to the local mushroom buyer but otherwise not much success to report in the area for morels. Oregon had experienced a late spring (lots of snow and a cool March) and then a month of hot and dry weather. That month of hot and dry really pissed off the morels! We arrived a few days after the first rains, but, it was also very cool (In the 40s cold!). Conditions were far from ideal, it was just too damn cold.  

We were receiving reports of burn morel activity in Arizona, Idaho and Washington but ended up hunkering down in the Prospect area. Why didn’t we pick up and go? It helped that we really enjoy that part of Oregon even when the foraging is mediocre. Our truck was acting funny and needed a spa-day at the dealership. We have plenty of burn morels left over from last year and still have 6 weeks of burn morels in Colorado to pick!  Mainly though, it really didn’t hurt that the Spring Porcinis were popping up! And we love us some spring kings. 

Spring Porcini

Boletus rex-veris or Spring Porcini really kept us busy that week. We found them at different elevations and as high as 4000 feet, but they were most abundant around 3000 feet. During the week we found porcinis immediately adjacent to different conifers. Overall, we favored the grand firs in this area and the porcinis favored them too. Monoforests were avoided – where all the trees are the same size (because they were all planted at the same time). The mushrooms were most abundant in a mixed forest where there were some large, medium and small trees. We did especially well when we walked old skid roads and two-tracks in the forests. Frequently they were found shrumping under small firs that grow on or beside those old logging roads.  

If you are out looking for Boletus rex-veris in this area, we recommend you look for mature but logged forests with trails (even old and overgrown logging trails) and walk along those trails until you find some… then slow down and look around. If you have never picked the Spring King, it is important to know that it emerges from under the duff and often the choice buttons are visible only as small “mushrumps” that haven’t erupted into a fully adult mushroom yet. Scanning the forest floor for suspect shrumps is how you find the really good ones. Or, when you discover a large overgrown “flag” mushroom, look closely nearby and find smaller and fresher mushrooms. Take good GPS in this area – we have to navigate both National park and private land boundaries. Plus, the USFS provides a mushroom harvest map

A Panorama of Porcini country. Notice some larger trees, medium trees and smaller trees.  They are mostly Douglas Fir and Grand Fir 

The size of the mushroom can be deceptive… the true essence of a #1 button is not really its size or shape… it has to be rock hard, have white pores and be bug free. As the mushroom ages, the pores get darker, the mushroom gets softer and it often fill with maggots. These slightly older ones are best for dehydrating and do taste excellent when rehydrated. The smaller and firmer ones are excellent when cooked up fresh, grilled or can be frozen or dehydrated. One of our favorite ways to preserve the buttons is to roast them in the oven and then freeze them.  

The forest had many other mushrooms but two were most prevalent among the boletes. The first was a yellow coral that the deer love to eat. We found it frequently had been pawed at and chewed up. The second was an amanita – Amanita gemmata – which tended to grow in the same terrain the porcini were in and we came to see it as a favorable indicator.

As the week progressed the ‘cinis got a bit long in the tooth. We still found nice fresh ones but less frequently and they also became more buggy. It was time to move to higher elevations or new locations or just head on home. What to do? 

Lessons Learned

Even after 6 years of hunting burns, there are lessons to be learned. First and foremost, Mother Nature is #BOSS. She is fickle and you can’t always count on her. I wish we were closer to Prospect, I’d love to know if those morels ever did pop in the burns with warmer weather or did 2019 go down in history as “just a bad year” for the burns. At the time we were there the mushroom buyer reported that the area was at 10% of normal. Frankly we felt lucky to find what we did. Secondly, it’s not all about the rain – even though it was so hot and dry prior, we should have checked predicted temperatures. You can’t just assume the end of May in the mountains will be warm! And finally, good times with great friends is just as important as hauling a motherlode of morels home. We left feeling enriched if not completely satisfied by our mushroom finds. 

So we headed home. The truck was suspect, Kristen had a cold, the ticks were teeny tiny and insane (poor dogs, frontline does not get them all!) and graduation was nearing. Good thing we bolted a few days early because the trip home was an adventure in itself. There is always next year… and we are hopeful Colorado burns will be popping any day now! 

Showing 12 comments
  • Momentummikey
    Reply

    Great article you guys. We tried the fires just north of Prospect and had the same story, minus Porcinis. Buyer was saying just too cold at night still. Too cold, no flush of morels. Today we’re leaving a favorite two year old burn, by Bend and found very few. Found nicer, fresh ones last weekend here at 4500, then a cold week moved in. This week morels found are all dry, whether at 45, 46 or 4700. Heat is moving back in for the week, does that mean a flush at sme height as where it left off, or does it start low again?

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      I hope they will flush again, and think that if they do, they will flush in the elevation they want to… in other words, they may never flush in a certain elevation and will skip it entirely since it is too low an elevation come June. So, I would not expect them to continue at 4600 or whatever, but perhaps jump up to 5+ since it is later in the year and that is where they want to be… keeping in mind, the Morchella tomentosa species does flush later than the first flush, so that third flush could still happen!

  • Momentummikey
    Reply

    Hey guys. On the beautiful Greys and Blondes that come up lastly, do they follow the last of the flushes down low around 4600 feet, or only in the higher areas above 5500???? Hoping that SOMETHING will still happen with this very hot and dry week coming.

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      hmmm… I don’t know the answer to that. we have less experience on that last flush (Morchella tomentosa – fuzzy foot it is sometimes called) but have never heard anyone credible say it is only a higher elevation species. Maybe someone will comment and share their experience!

  • Owen
    Reply

    Beautiful harvest! That’s a bummer you missed the season here in Oregon. That cold week with lots of rain you experienced really flushed them near us (John Day area), and an additional cool rainy week had them growing very large in pretty large quantities, even on a 4 year-old burn.

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      Yep, we sure missed that! Committing to stay in Prospect kept us from the bountiful morels in your area! It really is a big lesson… Morels are elusive and hard to predict and being ready to pickup and drive across the state has always been a very rewarding strategy! Furthermore, people were picking huge quantitees in other states like Idaho and Arizona too. I think we my re-commit to NOT staying in one area next year based on our results.

  • Justin
    Reply

    Are you sure those weren’t amanita vernicoccora?

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      No, we are not sure. And, someone over at the Cascade Mycological Society asked if they should be Amanita aprica – We are not sure, and will do some more book research and revise if we can get a definitive answer…

  • Chris Dimelow
    Reply

    we are in colorado and did not find anything in the burns last weekend. have you found anything yet?? my home supply is getting low and I need more for cooking!!

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      Yes, they are starting here in the burns… I think the temp had to get warm enough and we are seeing them start to pop, just in the last week, but, now we have a dry spell again – so, they started and then stopped. We are picking dryish ones now and hoping we get some rain coming across the state soon.

  • Kathy
    Reply

    Went up to a burn area very close to where I had great luck with morels after a burn about 15 years ago. Western side of Colorado. I didn’t find a thing. Too cold too late? After the burn last time I picked until the end of June. Any ideas?

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      Kathy, hard to say without any more information! which burn and which elevation? We may have an update on the burns in our blog in the next day or two if it helps.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search