Andy Kerr

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

Steens Mountain Wilderness (Proposed)

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 150-152.

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The most diverse wildland in the Oregon Desert.

Location: Harney County, 60 miles south-southeast of Burns

Size: 956 square miles (612,021 acres)

Terrain: Rugged glacial cirques, precipitous rims, gently sloping plateaus, and deep river canyons

Elevation Range: 4,015-9,773

Managing Agency: Burns District BLM

Agency Wilderness Status: 257,390-acre BLM wilderness study area; 81,125 acres recommended

Recreation Maps: South Half Burns District BLM; Northeast Quarter, North Half Burns District BLM

The proposed Steens Mountain Wilderness includes terrain from all parts of Steens Mountain. (For discussions of the topography, vegetation, and wildlife, please see the Steens Mountain National Conservation Area.)

Three units comprise the proposed wilderness: Alvord Peak, High Steens, and Little Blitzen.

Alvord Peak Unit

In the south Steens, the Alvord Peak unit is among the least visited portion of Steens Mountain. It is a series of ten volcanic peaks, the highest of which is Alvord Peak.

High Steens Unit and Little Blitzen Units

The Little Blitzen unit is separated from the High Steens unit by the Steens Moun- tain Loop Road. Its character, vegetation, wildlife, and other wilderness values are typical of the High Steens unit, which surrounds it on three sides.

These two units range from the highest to the lowest points on Steens Mountain and include some of the south Steens, much of the north Steens, and all of the high Steens, save the roads.

In the north Steens, most notable are the steep escarpments of the east face, with their variety of color. Moving westward, one finds rolling hills, canyons, and flat basins with small intermittent lakes.
In the high Steens, the rims still dominate, but Pleistocene glaciers came into play. Glacial cirques, talus slopes, hanging lakes (tarns), ponds and streams, and high-elevation fescue grasslands are great for wildlife. The High Steens unit contains much of the Catlow Rim, recognized for its high density of nesting raptors.

The High Steens unit contains seven BLM wilderness study areas: Blitzen River, High Steens, Home Creek, Little Blitzen Gorge, Lower Stonehouse, South Fork Donner and Blitzen, and Stonehouse.

The Desert Trail traverses the area (see Appendix D).