Pueblo Mountains Wilderness (Proposed)
Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 94-95.
A fascinating mix of scenery, geology, vegetation, and wildlife.
Location: Harney County, 10 miles southeast of Fields
Size: 134 square miles (86,010 acres)
Terrain: Deeply incised high mountain ridges and steep escarpments with a massive tilt
Elevation Range: 4,200-8,630 feet
Managing Agency: Burns District BLM
Agency Wilderness Status: 72,090-acre BLM wilderness study area; 25,550 acres recommended (additional wilderness in Nevada)
Recreation Map: South Half Burns District BLM
The geology is spectacular. The main ridgeline of the Pueblo Range and Pueblo Peak itself rise majestically above the valley floor and include metamorphic outcrops that are the oldest rock in southeast Oregon. The range has an enormous westward tilt along its 15 miles of ridgeline that has an average elevation of 7,300 feet.
Water is plentiful. Several streams dissect the area, including some with water- falls, including one 30 to 40 feet high.
Plant species diversity is uncommonly high for southeast Oregon. Twenty-three plants of special concern are found here in several interesting vegetative communities.
The dominant vegetation is big sagebrush overstory with bluebunch wheat- grass, Idaho fescue, Thurber's needlegrass, and bottlebrush squirreltail in the understory. Low sage can also be found.
A mixed shrub community on open slopes of the foothills features big sage-brush, budsage, shadscale, spiny hopsage, gray and green rabbit-brush, Nevada and green Mormon tea, shrubby buckwheat, winterfat, bitterbrush, purple sage, and little leaf horsebrush.
The higher, rockier talus and outcrops host land oceanspray and mountain snowberry.
Mountain mahogany and quaking aspen are found at higher elevations. Alder, narrowleaf cottonwood, willow, wild rose, and chokecherry occur along the creeks and near springs. Juniper is very rare, with only about ten trees having been sighted.
Alpine wetlands support iris, desert lilies, and marsh marigolds.
Wildflowers are in abundance, including waterleaf phacelia, agoseris, balsamroot, blue and yellow violets, Indian paintbrush, tiny stonecrop, and alpine saxifrage. Miniature pink carpets of filaree cling to the hillsides. Nodding melic, thick-leaved phacelia, two-stemmed onion, and red buttercup are of special concern.
The northern edge of the range of Mormon tea (a natural source of the noncaffeine stimulant ephedrine) is found here. The narrowleaf cottonwood/Mormon tea community is an ecosystem unique for Oregon.
The wildlife is an interesting mix as well.
Bighorn sheep were reintroduced in the 1980s and have thrived in the prime and secluded habitat. The interspersion of water, forage, and thermal cover pro- vides good habitat for both mule deer and pronghorn.
Eighty species of birds, including a large variety of songbirds and raptors, have been recorded. The Pueblo Valley to the east is on a migratory bird flyway. Sage grouse, mourning dove, and valley quail are abundant.
Reptile species are also abundant and include the rare collared lizard. Fish species include the redband trout and Alvord chub. Other mammals include elk, beaver, fox, badger, porcupine, coyote, bobcat,
mountain cottontail rabbit, black-tailed jackrabbit, bushy-tailed woodrat, canyon mouse, deer mouse, and the long-eared myotis. Cougar may also be present.
Lest we forget the invertebrates, the rare Riding's satyr butterfly (Neominois ringsii) has been reported.
The Desert Trail traverses the area (see Appendix E).