A Wild Chinook Run, the Matterhorn of Oregon, and Devil’s Tooth
Although open ponderosa pine forests are the signature vegetation type, the Blue Mountains ecoregion has a number of distinctive subregions, as described in Thorson et al. 2003. Maritime-influenced areas have a more diverse forest created by additional moisture that makes it through the Columbia Gorge and avoids some of the Cascade rain shadow effect. These occur in the peaks of the Seven Devils in Idaho, in the Wallowa Mountains, Strawberry Mountains, and in the Umatilla National Forest portions in Oregon and Washington. The additional trees include grand fir, Douglas fir, and subalpine fir, along with shrubs. On the eastern slopes are irrigated valleys along the Power River below Baker City, Grande Ronde River below La Grande, and Wallowa River below Enterprise. At lower elevations on the west side of the mountains and in the John Day and Crooked River valleys are extensive foothills of sagebrush-grassland. On the east side in the rain shadow areas are also shrublands and bunchgrass vegetation. In the northeast are the deep canyons of the Snake, Imnaha, and Grande Ronde. Amid the dry forests of the western Blue Mountains, eight large cold basins allow large high wet meadows to form. These are:
- Big Summit Prairie, 4,500 feet elevation (N44˚22’ W120˚12’)
- Fox Valley, 4,400 feet elevation (N44˚36’ W119˚11’)
- Bear Valley, 4,700 feet elevation (N44˚12’ W119˚3’)
- Silvies Valley, 4,500 feet elevation (N43˚58’ W118˚57’)
- Bridge Creek Flats, 4,000 feet elevation (N45˚2’ W118˚55’)
- Ukiah, 3,400 feet elevation (N45˚8’ W118˚54’)
- Logan Valley, 5,000 feet elevation (N44˚10’ W118˚38’)
- Sumpter Valley, 4,200 feet elevation (N44˚42’ W118˚8’)
The National Wild and Scenic River System in Blue Mountains forests includes 19 rivers, reflecting the undisturbed nature of the waterways and the scenic canyon topography.
North Fork Crooked River, Ochoco National Forest and National System of Public Lands, Oregon, is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system for 34 miles from its source at Williams Prairie (N44˚16’ W120˚14’) downstream to Lookout Pasture (N44˚19’ W120˚14’) and from Big Summit Prairie (N44˚20’ W120˚9’) downstream to one mile from the confluence with the Crooked River (N44˚8’ W120˚14’). The eight miles of river through private land in Big Summit Prairie are not part of the designation. Downstream from Big Summit Prairie, the river flows through a deep canyon.
Eagle Creek, Eagle Cap Wilderness and Whitman NF, is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system from Eagle Lake (N45˚8’ W117˚20’) to the forest boundary (N44˚52’ W117˚14’). The river is noted for waterfalls and glacial features.
Grande Ronde River, National System of Public Lands, Umatilla National Forest, and Whitman National Forest, Oregon, is a wild and scenic river for 44 miles from the confluence with the Wallowa River (N45˚44’ W117˚47’) downstream to the Washington state line at river mile 39 (N46˚0’ W117˚23’) in the Palouse Prairie. It flows on the boundary between the Umatilla NF and Whitman NF between river miles 62 (N45˚52’ W117˚38’) and 80 (N45˚45’ W117˚47’).
John Day River, National System of Public Lands, Oregon, extends from River Mile 10 at Tumwater Falls (N45˚40’ W120˚30’) in the Palouse Prairie upstream to Service Creek. The longest undammed river in the northwest is a wild and scenic river for 147.5 miles from Service Creek to Tumwater Falls, seven miles upstream of the Columbia River/Lake Umatilla. Terrain is high desert canyons and vegetation is sagebrush. It is listed as a wild river for outstanding scenery, recreation, fish, wildlife, geology, paleontology, archaeology, and history.
Segment 3 of the wild and scenic river as described in the river management plan, from Clarno on State Route 218 (N44˚55’ W120˚28’) upstream to Service Creek at River Mile 157), is in the Blue Mountains forests ecoregion. Service Creek access site is in the Blue Mountains at the junction of State Routes 207 and 19 (N44˚48’ W120˚0’). This segment flows through the painted hills topography from Service Creek downstream to Cherry Creek at River Mile 130 (N44˚46’ W120˚23’).
North Fork John Day River, Umatilla and Whitman National Forests, Oregon, with 54 miles in the system, contains the largest remaining wild run of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia River basin. The river is designated from its headwaters in the Whitman NF in the North Fork John Day Wilderness (N44˚52’ W118˚14’) downstream to the confluence with Camas Creek on US Route 395 (N45˚1’ W119˚0’).
South Fork John Day River, National System of Public Lands, Oregon, extends from the confluence with the John Day River at Dayville (N44˚28’ W119˚32’) upstream to river mile 35 (N44˚8’ W119˚29’). The river was designated for outstanding fish, wildlife, and botanical values. The narrow canyon includes Izee Falls, which drops 55 feet, and a portion of the wild and scenic river is in the Black Canyon Wilderness (N44˚20’ W119˚34’).
Imnaha River, Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Oregon, is a wild and scenic river for 63 miles from the confluence of the North and South Fork (N45˚7’ W117˚8’) downstream to the Snake River. Its elevation drop is more than 7,000 feet.
South Fork Imnaha River, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon, is a wild and scenic river for 14 miles from its headwaters to the confluence with the North Fork.
Lostine River, Eagle Cap Wilderness and Wallowa National Forest, Oregon, is designated as a wild and scenic river for 16 miles from its headwaters (N45˚12’ W117˚21’) downstream to the Wallowa National Forest boundary (N45˚24’ W117˚26’). Upper reaches are a U-shaped glaciated valley, while lower reaches are habitat for species of moonwart and twayblade.
Malheur River, Malheur NF, Oregon, is a unit of the wild and scenic river system for 14 miles from Bosenberg Creek (N44˚8’ W118˚37’) to the forest boundary (N44˚1’ W118˚32’). Malheur River NRT follows the river canyon for eight miles from Malheur Ford to Hog Flat.
North Fork Malheur River, Malheur NF, Oregon, is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system for 25 miles from its headwaters (N44˚22’ W118˚24’) to the forest boundary north of Beulah Reservoir (N44˚5’ W118˚18’). The river changes from a broad glaciated valley in the north to a deep canyon in the south. A trail follows the river through the canyon.
Minam River, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa and Whitman National Forests, Oregon, is designated a unit of the national wild and scenic river system for 42 miles from Minam Lake (N45˚11’ W117˚21’) downstream to the Eagle Cap Wilderness boundary (N45˚31’ W117˚42’). It is noted for its steep and glaciated upper reaches which transition to basalt canyons in the lower reaches. Reds Horse Ranch (N45˚21’ W117˚38’) is a historic site along the river.
North Powder River (N44˚55’ W118˚10’), Whitman NF, Oregon, is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system for six miles from its headwaters to the forest boundary. The river flows through an area of glaciated topography and is classified as scenic because there is road access to it from Haines.
Powder River, National System of Public Lands, Oregon, is designated as a unit of the national wild and scenic river system for 11 miles from Thief Valley Dam (N45˚0’ W117˚47’) downstream to the State Route 203 bridge (N44˚55’ W117˚40’). The river is managed as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
Rapid River, Nez Perce and Payette NF, Idaho, is designated a wild and scenic river from its headwaters (N45˚7’ W116˚30’) north to the Rapid River Fish Hatchery (N45˚21’ W116˚24’). Trails follow the river for its entire length.
Rapid River, West Fork, Nez Perce NF, Idaho, is designated a wild and scenic river for its entire length from the junction with the Rapid River (N45˚18’ W116˚25’) west to its headwaters (N45˚16’ W116˚32’).Trails follow the river for its entire length.
Snake River, Hells Canyon NRA, Idaho, is designated a wild river from Hells Canyon Dam at Snake River Mile 247 downstream to Pittsburg Landing at Snake River Mile 216 (N45˚37’ W116˚28’); and a scenic river from Pittsburg Landing downstream to Snake River Mile 180 near the Washington-Oregon border (N45˚57’ W116˚53’).
Wallowa River, National System of Public Lands and state of Oregon, is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system from Minam State Recreation Area on State Route 82 (N45˚37’ W117˚43’) downstream for ten miles to the confluence with the Grande Ronde River (N45˚37’ W117˚43’).
Wenaha River, Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Oregon, is designated as a wild and scenic river for 22 miles from Wenaha Forks (N45˚57’ W117˚48’) in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness downstream to the confluence with the Grande Ronde River at Troy (N45˚57’ W117˚27’). Basalt cliffs rise 1,600 feet on both sides of the river canyon.
The National Wilderness Preservation System in the Blue Mountain forests includes ten designations, one of which, the North Fork John Day Wilderness, has four discrete areas.
Black Canyon Wilderness, Ochoco National Forest, Oregon (N44˚20’ W119˚40’), is 13,000 acres with 18 miles of trails, including one through Black Canyon, offering views of a cliff-lined river gorge. Vegetation is ponderosa pine. Wolf Mountain, Bear Skull Mountain, Princess Ridge, Owl Creek Meadow, and a section of the South Fork John Day River are within the wilderness.
Bridge Creek Wilderness, Ochoco National Forest, Oregon (N44˚29’ W120˚14’), is 5,400 acres including two meadow-filled plateaus and a 600-foot cliff face which provides views. There are five springs amid a fir-larch forest. North Point and East Point provide vistas but require cross-country travel as there are no maintained trails.
North Fork John Day Wilderness, Umatilla and Whitman NFs, is 121,000 acres of rolling bench lands in four units. There are remains of old gold and silver mining operations, granite outcrops, and a large herd of elk. There are 33 miles of trails.
Baldy Creek Unit, Whitman NF (N44˚54’ W118˚19’), contains the headwaters of the North Fork John Day River and is south of Forest Highway 73. Mount Ireland, Angell Peak, and Mount Ruth are along the borders. Crawfish Lake and Crawfish Meadow are also in the wilderness. The Elkhorn Crest NRT follows the eastern border of this unit.
North Fork John Day Unit, Umatilla and Whitman NFs (N44˚56’ W118˚36’), contains the main river gorge and is the largest unit. A series of buttes overlook the river gorge, including Winom, Desolation Rabbit, Silver, Trout Meadows, and Ten Cent. The North Fork John Day NRT and South Winom Creek NRT are in the wilderness. The North Fork John Day River in the wilderness is in the national wild and scenic river system.
Greenhorn Unit, Umatilla NF (N44˚46’ W118˚33’) is south of Forest Highway 10 and the Olive Lake-Fremont Powerhouse Historical Area and adjacent to the Vinegar Hill-Indian Rock Scenic Area. It contains the Greenhorn Mountains and Clear Creek tributaries, which are tributary to the North Fork John Day River.
Tower Unit, Umatilla NF (N45˚2’ W118˚36’) is north of the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway (Forest Highway 52). It is drained by Winom Creek and Big Creek.
Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa and Whitman National Forests, Oregon, is 360,000 acres, with 534 miles of trail winding among 60 alpine lakes and U-shaped glacial valleys. There are 31 summits above 8,000 feet. The Lake Basin (N45˚11’ W117˚16’) at the foot of 9,600-foot Eagle Cap contains a number of high elevation lakes. Nearby is the Matterhorn (N45˚14’ W117˚18’), which towers over Hurricane Creek. The Wallowa Mountains Important Bird Area overlaps the wilderness, and was designated because the wilderness provides habitat for the spruce grouse, pine grosbeak, and Wallowa rosy finch, which nests only in the wilderness. The northeastern portion of the wilderness is drained by the Wallowa River. Trailheads accessible from Enterprise on the north side of the wilderness include three along the Lostine River Road (Forest Road 8210). These are Bowman-Francis Lake trailhead (N45˚18’ W117˚24’), Maxwell Lake trailhead (N45˚16’ W117˚23’), and Two Pan (N45˚15’ W117˚23’), at the end of the road. Also accessible from Enterprise are Hurricane Creek (N45˚19’ W117˚18’), with massive granite and limestone cliffs including the Matterhorn, and Wallowa Lake (N45˚16’ W117˚13’). Lostine River is designated as a wild and scenic river for 16 miles from its headwaters (N45˚12’ W117˚21’) downstream to the wilderness boundary (N45˚15’ W117˚23’). Craig Mountain Lake RNA (N45˚13’ W117˚16’) is 170 acres with a high elevation pond and meadow. Nearby West Razz Lake RNA (N45˚13’ W117˚17’) is a 47-acre tract with a high elevation permanent pond and sedge meadow. Mount Joseph RNA (N45˚17’ W117˚16’) is 700 acres to the west of Wallowa Lake and is representative of tundra cushion-plant communities and whitebark pine communities. Glacier Lake RNA (N45˚10’ W117˚17’) is 100 acres with a high elevation lake and arctic willow community. Sturgill proposed RNA (N45˚19’ W117˚31’) and Standley proposed RNA (N45˚23’ W117˚35’) are 140 acres and 740 acres, respectively, with representative green fescue communities.
In the Imnaha River watershed, trailheads are at Tenderfoot (N45˚11’ W117˚6’) and Indian Crossing (N45˚7’ W117˚1’) in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Tenderfoot Basin proposed RNA (N45˚11’ W117˚12’) is 900 acres with a green fescue community. Nebo proposed RNA is also a 1,700-acre area with green fescue grasslands. Imnaha River is a wild and scenic river for five miles in the wilderness from the confluence of the North and South Fork (N45˚7’ W117˚8’) downstream to the wilderness boundary (N45˚7’ W117˚2’) at river mile 58. South Fork Imnaha River is a wild and scenic river for 14 miles from its headwaters near Cusick Peak (N45˚8’ W117˚16’) to the confluence with the North Fork (N45˚7’ W117˚8’).
Trailheads accessible from Halfway are Twin Lakes (N45˚5’ W117˚3’), Cornucopia (N45˚1’ W117˚12’), Summit Point (N44˚59’ W117˚15’), East Eagle Creek (N45˚3’ W117˚19’), and Main Eagle (N45˚4’ W117˚24’). It is two miles from Main Eagle to Copper Falls. Eagle Creek is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system from Eagle Lake (N45˚8’ W117˚20’) to the wilderness boundary (N45˚5’ W117˚23’). The river is noted for waterfalls and glacial features. Granite Cliff towers 4,000 feet over the East Eagle trailhead. East Eagle Creek is considered eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from its headwaters near Horton Pass (N45˚10’ W117˚19’) to the wilderness boundary and on to the confluence with Eagle Creek in the Whitman NF (N44˚59’ W117˚22’).
West side trailheads are at Moss Springs (N45˚16’ W117˚41’), North Fork Catherine Creek (N45˚9’ W117˚37’), and West Eagle Meadow (N45˚5’ W117˚29’). These provide access to the Minam River country. The Minam River is a unit of the wild and scenic river system from Minam Lake (N45˚11’ W117˚21’) downstream to the Eagle Cap Wilderness boundary (N45˚31’ W117˚42’). North Fork Catherine Creek was found to have outstandingly remarkable values from its headwaters (N45˚13’ W117˚35’) downstream to the wilderness boundary (N45˚11’ W117˚36’).
Hells Canyon Wilderness, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and National System of Public Lands, Idaho-Oregon, is 218,000 acres along the Snake River. In Idaho, it includes Hells Canyon from Willow Creek at Snake River Mile 228 to Hells Canyon Dam at Snake River Mile 248. In Oregon, it extends from Dug Bar at Snake River Mile 197 southward to Snake River Mile 260 south of Nelson Creek. The Snake River corridor itself is excluded from the wilderness. Oregon trailheads in the Blue Mountains are at Buck Creek (N45˚12’ W116˚46’), PO Saddle (N45˚14’ W116˚46’), Hat Point (N45˚26’ W116˚40’), and Warnock Corral (N45˚29’ W116˚39’). Idaho trailheads are at Black Lake (N45˚11’ W116˚34’), Heavens Gate (N45˚22’ W116˚30’), and Windy Saddle (N45˚21’ W116˚31’). Western Rim/Summit Ridge NRT winds end and out of the western boundary of the wilderness from PO Saddle northward to Dug Bar.
Granite Creek is a stream with outstanding scenery from its headwaters west of Black Lake in the the southeastern portion of the NRA (N45˚12’ W116˚35’) downstream to the Snake River (N45˚21’ W116˚39’). The stream begins at a glacial cirque then enters a U-shaped valley before descending in a deep canyon. Further north, Sheep Creek (N45˚28’ W116˚33’) and West Fork Sheep Creek (N45˚20’ W116˚33’) also drain the Idaho side of the wilderness from the Seven Devils Mountains. Devil’s Tooth, a 300-foot pinnacle, dominates the view from the Seven Devils Trail. Little Granite RNA (N45˚19’ W116˚34’) is 6,000 acres in the Seven Devils Mountains of Idaho with subalpine fir and Douglas-fir plant communities. Lightning Creek RNA (N45˚26’ W116˚29’) is a 2,100-acre high elevation area in Idaho north of Heaven’s Gate with Idaho fescue plant communities.
Mill Creek Wilderness, Ochoco NF, Oregon (N44˚30’ W120˚30’), is 17,300 acres extending from high prairies to canyons. Mountains include Whistler Point and Wildcat Mountain. Nearby is Desolation Canyon, an off-trail feature of the wilderness. Twin Pillars NRT extends eight miles from Bingham Spring Campground on Forest Highway 27, past the 200-foot-high rock formation of Twin Pillars (N44˚29’ W120˚32’), south to Wildcat Campground on Forest Highway 33.
Monument Rock Wilderness, Malheur and Whitman NFs (N44˚20’ W118˚19’), is 20,000 acres of ponderosa pine and large grassy meadows with 15 miles of trails. Monument Rock, Table Rock, and Bullrun Rock tower above the headwaters of the Little Malheur River at the south end of the wilderness.
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, Malheur National Forest, Oregon (N44˚19’ W118˚43’), is 69,350 acres with 125 miles of trails and representative plant communities from five of the seven life zones of North America. Forests of larch, spruce, pine, and fir are present, along with its namesake wild strawberries. There are seven alpine lakes. A popular trail leads to Strawberry Falls (N44˚18’ W118˚43’). Strawberry Mountain proposed RNA (N44˚19’ W118˚43’) is 100 acres and was selected for its reproducing nearly pure stand of whitebark pine. Northwest of Strawberry Mountain is Baldy Mountain proposed RNA (N44˚20’ W118˚48’), which is 4,000 acres of subalpine fir-Idaho fescue, western juniper, and mountain mahogany plant communities. There are some serpentine areas. In the western portion of the wilderness is Canyon Creek RNA (N44˚18’ W118˚52’), 700 acres established to represent a virgin ponderosa pine ecosystem, with some areas of western juniper and mountain mahogany forests. The three miles of Lake Creek (N44˚15’ W118˚40’) within the wilderness are considered eligible for the national wild and scenic river system.
North Fork Umatilla Wilderness, Umatilla National Forest, Oregon (N45˚44’ W118˚7’) is 20,435 acres with 31 miles of trails, located south of State Route 204 east of Pendleton. The wilderness consists of steep canyons beneath a plateau and includes canyons of the North Fork Umatilla River, Bear Creek, Buck Creek, and Thomas Creek in addition to Grouse Mountain, Buck Mountain, and Ninemile Ridge.
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Pomeroy Ranger District, Umatilla National Forest, Oregon-Washington, is 177,000 acres of deep canyons with ridgetops 2,000 feet above the drainages. The area is forested with ponderosa pine below 4,500 feet elevation and lodgepole pine on the high mountains. The highest point is Oregon Butte (N46˚ W117˚). There are 200 miles of trails, with numerous trailheads around the perimeter in the Umatilla NF, accessible from Kendall Skyline Road on the west and other roads to the north and east. The Wenaha River in the wilderness is a unit of the national wild and scenic river system. The North Fork Wenaha River, Oregon-Washington (N46˚0’ W117˚52’) and South Fork Wenaha River, Oregon (N45˚54’ W117˚54’) are eligible for the national wild and scenic river system. Butte Creek, Oregon-Washington (N46˚0’ W117˚42’) and West Fork Butte Creek, Washington (N46˚4’ W117˚44’), tributaries to the Wenaha River, are considered eligible for the national wild and scenic river system. The northern boundary of the wilderness is the Tucannon River, Washington (N46˚11’ W117˚39’), which is also eligible. Rainbow Creek RNA, Washington (N46˚4’ W117˚46’) is a grand fir-white pine community adjacent to the West Fork Butte Creek. Wenaha Breaks RNA, Oregon (N45˚57’ W117˚47’) is a grand fir-Pacific yew forest community.