Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur


Table of Contents

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 6-9.

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Front Matter —3

Dedication —4

In Memorium —4

Robert Service Verse —4

The Oregon Desert —10

Acknowledgments —12

Preface —14

Introduction —16


How to Use This Guide —18

Information Blocks

Getting to the Embarkation Point

After the Embarkation Point

Government Jurisdictions

Ecological Classifications

The Oregon Biodiversity Project

A Word on Words

The Right Maps —22

Getting Around and Back Well —24


Killer Cows

Wildlife on the Road


To Backpack! Or Not to Backpack?









Perilous Plants

Private Land

Proposed Wilderness Boundaries

Cultural Resources

Campcraft and Backcountry Ethics

The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

Hunting and Hunting Seasons

Hot Springs


Other Than Walking

Fecal Matters

Leave No Trace

Settlement Services


Geology —42

Climate —43

Vegetation —44

A Desert Without Cactus?

Western Juniper: Loved and Loathed

A Desert Without Crusts Is a Desert Without a Skin

Fish and Wildlife —49

Northern Kit Fox

The Wily Coyote

Welcome Back the Wolf!

Desert Elk

Bring Back the Bighorn

Faster Than a Speeding Pronghorn—Not!

Bring Back the Beaver

Sage Grouse: The Spotted Owl of the Desert


Wilderness, Natural, and Recreational Values —62


Domestic Livestock: Scourge of the West —64

The Top Twenty Threats to Ecological Integrity —67


Inviting Nature Back: The Big Vision Requires Big Wilderness —73

A Solution: The Oregon Desert Conservation Act —77

A New Mission and Name for the Bureau of Land Management —82

Why Special Designations Are Necessary —83

A New and Better Economic Future —85

Ending Public Land Grazing Fair and Square —88


Abert Rim Wilderness (Proposed) —94

The largest continuous fault scarp in North America.

1. Colvin Timbers —95

2. Poison Creek —96

Alvord Wilderness (Proposed) —96

Huge desert plays, unique flor and fauna in the rain shadow of Steens Mountain.

3. Alvord Desert —97

4. Coyote Lake —98

Bighorn Wilderness (Proposed) —99

The largest concentration of bighorn sheep in Oregon.

5. Warner Peak and DeGarmo Canyon (Warner Peak Unit) —101

6. Orejana Canyon (Orejana Canyon Unit) —101

7. Poker Jim Ridge (Poker Jim Ridge Unit) —102

Buzzard Creek Wilderness (Proposed) —102

Recreation by and for those at risk.

8. Iron Mountain Summit (Iron Mountain Unit) —105

Diablo Mountain Wilderness (Proposed) —105

The wild shore of a relic Pleistocene lake, steep escarpments, unique volcanic flows, and a species "hotspot."

9. Diablo Peak (Summer Lake Unit) —107

10. Sand Dunes Traverse (Summer Lake Unit) —107

Diamond Craters National Monument (Proposed) —108

"A museum of basaltic volcanism."

Fish Creek Rim Wilderness (Proposed) —110

Great views of the Warner Valley, Warner Mountains, and Hart Mountain with a good chance to see bighorn sheep.

11. Fish Creek Rim—111

Fort Rock Lava Beds National Monument (Proposed) —111

Thick forests to open sage with a wide variety of volcanic features in between.

Fort Rock Lava Beds Wilderness (Proposed) —113

The collision of lava, forest and sage.

12. Crack in the Ground (Four Craters Lava Field Unit)—115

13. Little Garden (Devils Garden Unit)—115

Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Additions (Proposed) —116

A "hotspot" of species endemism and complete protection of the entire range of the Hart Mountain pronghorn herd.

14. Buck Pasture (Warner Peak Unit, Bighorn Wilderness)—119-

15. Campbell Lake (Poker Jim Ridge Unit, Bighorn Wilderness) —120

Lake Abert National Wildlife Refuge (Proposed) —121

Oregon's Mono Lake.

Lonesome Lakes Wilderness (Proposed) —123

The wild does not reach and grab you, but is nonetheless tere for the taking.

16. Benjamin Lake and Benjamin Cave —125

17. Elk Butte —125

Lost Forest-Shifting Sand Dunes National Monument (Proposed) —126

Ancient pines and junipers, antediluvian fossils, and venerable dunes.

18. Fossil Lake —28

Malheur Lake Wilderness (Proposed) —128

Sporadically Oregon's largest lake.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Additions (Proposed) —129

Expansion would help wildlife, ranchers, local government and federal taxpayers.

Oregon Grasslands Wilderness (Proposed) —132

Gentle rolling wide open spaces covered with bunchgrass and with other wonders, big and small.

19. Beatys Butte Summit (Beatys Butte Unit) —135

20. Lone Mountain (Hawk Mountain—Catlow Rim Unit) —135

21. The Potholes (Beatys Butte Unit) —136

Pronghorn Wilderness (Proposed) —137

One of the largest concentrations of pronghorn in Oregon.

22. Guano Creek —138

Pueblo Mountains Wilderness (Proposed) —139

A fascinating mix of scenery, geology, vegetation, and wildlife.

23. Pueblo Peak —141

Sheepshead Mountains Wilderness (Proposed) —141

Many more people know of them than have been too them.

24. Mickey Basin and Mickey Butte —143

Shifting Sand Dunes Wilderness (Proposed) —143

The most unique addition possible to Oregon's Wilderness System.

25. Nothing But Sand —145

Steens Mountain National Conservation Area (Proposed) —145

An ecological island in the sky.

26. Whorehouse Meadows —149

Steens Mountain Wilderness (Proposed) —150

The most diverse wildland in the Oregon Desert.

27. Alvord Peak Summit (Alvord Peak Unit) —151

28. Bridge Creek (High Steens Unit) —152

29. Home Creek Butte (High Steens Unit) —152

30. Little Blitzen River (Little Blitzen Unit) —153

31. Pike Creek (High Steens Unit) —154

Trout Creek Mountains Wilderness (Proposed) —154

Two ranges of desert mountains with deeply incised canyons and stands of aspen and willow among sagebrush and plentiful water.

32. Little Whitehorse Creek (Oregon Canyon Mountains Unit) —156

33. Mud Spring Base Camp (Oregon Canyon Mountains Unit) —157

34. Oregon Canyon (Oregon Canyon Mountains Unit) —158

35. Little Trout Creek (Trout Creek Unit) —159


Homestead Addition (Proposed) to the Hells Canyon Wilderness —161

Ten miles of very rugged and knfelike ridge desending from forest to desert.

36. McLain Gulch —164

Sheep Mountain Wilderness (Proposed) —165

A wildlife wonderland known by few and visited by fewer.

37. Black Canyon Headwaters —167

South Fork John Day Wilderness (Proposed) —168

Stark natural beauty with a great divesity of vegetation from large conifers to tiny flowers.

38. Smokey Creek (Murderers Creek Unit) —170


Boardman Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge (Proposed) —172

The Navy is abandoning its bombing range, which contains one of the best remaining blocks of native grasslands on the Columbi plateau.


Soda Mountain Wilderness (Proposed) —176

Multiple collisions at an ecological crossroads.

39. Pacific Crest Trail: Soda Mountain—Pilot Rock (Pilot Rock Unit) —178

40. Boccard Point (Pilot Rock Unit) —178

41. Dutch Oven and Camp Creeks (Pilot Rock Unit) —179


Badlands Wilderness (Proposed) —181

Striking volcanic outcrops coverd by juniper and a dry river canyon with polished lavas.

42. Badlands Rock —184

43. Dry River Canyon —185

Crooked River Wilderness (Proposed) —186

Seven jewels representative of the ecological diversity of the Crooked River Basin.

44. Chimney Rock (Chimney Rock Unit) 189

45. Crooked River Overlook (Rocky Canyon Unit) —190

46. Gerry Mountain Summit (Gerry Mountain Unit) —190

47. Pickett Canyon (South Fork Unit) —191

48. River Mile 14 Island (North Fork Unit) —191

Deschutes Canyon Wilderness (Proposed) —192

The meeting of the Cascade and desert ecosystems provides and unusually rich natural diversity.

49. Steelhead Falls (Steelhead Falls Unit) —193

John Day River Wilderness (Proposed) —194

A spectacular river, linking equally spectacular cliffs, canyons, habitats and scenery.

50. Clarno to Cottonwood (Lower Canyon Unit) —198

51. Eagle Canyon (Spring Basin Unit) —198

52. Sutton Mountain Summit (Sutton Mountain Unit) —199


Jordan Craters National Monument (Proposed) —202

A stark expanse of bare lava, some less than a century old.

53. West Peninsula (Jordan Craters Unit, Owyhee Wilderness) — 204

Lower Owyhee National Conservation Area (Proposed) —204

A forgotten wild wonderland.

Malheur Canyons Wilderness (Proposed) —209

Eighteen wild refugia, each worth of wilderness designation on its own.

54. Beaver Dam Creek (Beaver Dam Creek Unit) —214

55. Bluebucket Creek (Upper River Unit) —214

56. Castle Rock Circumnavigation (Castle Rock Unit) —215

57. Coleman Creek Canyon (Coleman Creek Unit) —215

58. Cottonwood Creek (Cottonwood Unit) —217

59. Ironside Mountain Summit (Ironside Mountain Unit) —218

60. Star Mountain Summit (Star Mountain Unit) —218

61. Upton Mountain (Middle River Unit) —219

62. Westfall Butte (Westfall Highlands Unit)—219

Owyhee Wilderness (Proposed) —220

A magnificent wild river flowing through some of the wildest country in the Lower Forty-Eight.

63. Anderson Crossing (Upper West Little Owyhee and Owyhee Canyonlands Units) —228

64. Batch Lake (Jordan Craters Unit) —229

65. Bowden Hills Summit (Bowden Hills Unit) —230

66. Chalk Basin (Owyhee Breaks Unit) —231

67. Honeycombs (Honeycombs Unit) —232

68. Lambert Rocks (Owyhee Breaks Unit) —232

69. Saddle Butte Lava Tubes (Saddle Butte Unit)—233

70. Slocum Creek—Schoolhouse Gulch (Mahogany Mountain Unit) —234

71. Three Forks (Middle Owyhee River Unit) —234

REFERENCES —236 (Note: References are not incorporated at bottom the page of text that they reference.)



Appendix A: Government Agency Contacts —246

Appendix B: What You Can Do to Help —248

Appendix C: Conservation Organizations —249

Appendix D: The Desert Trail —252

Appendix E: Home on the Range —254



The Oregon Desert —10

Basin and Range Ecoregion —92

Blue Mountains Ecoregion —162

Columbia Basin Ecoregion —172

Klamath Mountains Ecoregion —177

Lava Plains Ecoregion —182

Owyhee Uplands Ecoregion —201


Settlement Services —40

Wilderness, Natural, and Recreational Values —62

Index —255

About the Author —271

About the Photographer –271