Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge

•March 23, 2013 • 1 Comment

Hart Mountain in Lake County, Oregon, stands at an elevation of over 8,000 feet in the surrounding Warner Valley floor.  Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeThis massive fault block ridge is noted for a series of steep slopes, craggy cliffs, and rugged ridges.  From the west-side, there are spectacular views of the Warner Valley Wetlands.  The east-side of Hart Mountain showcases the rolling sage lands and high-desert plateaus well-known in southeastern Oregon.  Hart Mountain is most notably known to be home to the expansive Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. 

At one time in our national history, the pronghorn antelope was nearly as populous as the American bison.  However, around the turn of the century, Western settlers nearly hunted the pronghorn antelope to extinction.  In the 1930s, local residents in favor of protecting the pronghorn urged federal support with their grassroots movement.  In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established by executive order, the range as breeding ground for pronghorn antelope in 1936.  You may ask, “Why are these animals called pronghorn antelope?”  Well, the antelopes at Hart Mountain are actually pronghorns, a family of hoofed animals that are related, but are not part of the true family of antelopes found in Africa or Asia.  The pronghorn is only found in North America and are commonly referred to as pronghorn antelope. 

Early on, the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge was primarily maintained for the remnant herds of pronghorn antelope.  However, over the years, management of the refuge has broadened to conservation of the delicate ecosystems and native high-desert wildlife of Oregon.  The Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge protects more than 422 square miles of precious habitat for over 300 diverse species of wildlife.  The area contains some of the most extensive and high-quality sage-steppe habitat in the state, along with dry and wet upland meadows, willow stands, mixed deciduous shrub habitat, and rolling aspen groves. 

The refuge is one of the most expansive wildlife habitats in the West free of domestic livestock.  Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeThis protection helps preserve the fragile ecosystem, and also adds to the pristine nature of the scenery. Featured wildlife to the refuge, in addition to the pronghorn antelope are bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcat, coyote, and redband trout.  The Hart Mountain California bighorn sheep herd provides the source for the majority of sheep reintroductions in Oregon.  Its continued health is essential for the success of reintroducing this species throughout the Pacific Northwest.  There are also 239 bird species, with many being seasonal.  Bird species include sage grouse, great horned owl, bushtit, golden eagle, and sandhill crane to name just a few.  Substantial migrations of waterfowl occur in the nearby Warner Valley, which is partially inside the refuge, during the spring and fall.  Some species stay year-round to breed on the valley’s lakes and meadows.  Throughout the warmer months, an assorted variety of smaller birds and birds of prey are present.  They are attracted to the numerous rugged cliffs, vast sagebrush, and the grassland portions of the refuge.  The best opportunity to observe the greatest diversity of bird life on Hart Mountain is the beginning of May to October.

Recreational opportunities are almost as diverse as the local inhabitants.  Hart MountainThey include wildlife observation, hiking, overnight backpacking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, rock hounding, hunting, and photography.  Fishing is allowed per refuge regulations in Warner Pond, Rock Creek, and Guano Creek, except during drought periods. There is seasonal hunting permitted for partridge, quail, deer, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep.  Rock collecting is permitted with a 7-pound limit per person for above only ground collection.  Digging and blasting are prohibited within the refuge.  Hart Mountain Jasper is highly prized as it occurs above the 7,000 foot elevation near the top of Hart Mountain in very rough terrain with no true deposits found, and just a scattering of material.  Not far from Hart Mountain are prime sources to mine for Oregon’s state gem stone, the Sunstone. 

Certainly wildlife viewing, especially for the day tripper, is a main attraction.  Viewing animals with binoculars or a spotting scope from the vehicle is quite popular.  Visitors should check with staff either in Lakeview, Oregon or at the refuge headquarters for the location of the most recent sightings of wildlife.   However, road access is very limited within the refuge and miles of hiking and overnight backpacking trails are available.  You will discover that finding greater solitude in the remote areas of the land will provide excellent opportunities to view and photograph the wildlife.  Hart Mountain truly is a destination where you need to get out of the confines and comfort of your car.  One should immerse themselves in the landscape by hiking a day-trip into one of the many side canyons from the base of the mountain.  Once you have quietly become part of the environment, the land will re-open and the wildlife will emerge.

Within the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a little known gem of a location called Petroglyph Lake.  Approximately 100 Native American drawings decorate the black basalt ledge along this small lake atop Poker Jim Ridge.  Very little is known about the people who painted these animalist figures, symbols, and shapes on these cliffs many thousands of years ago.  The lack of passed down tradition among Oregon’s native tribes has created a mystery for current and future visitors.  There is a moderate 5 mile loop that takes you to the rim of Poker Jim Ridge and returns via Petroglyph Lake.    Like many hikes within Hart Mountain, there is no defined trail, but rather a trek through sagebrush with a well-viewed destination in sight.  Petroglyph Lake is accessed from the refuge road a short distance west of the refuge headquarters.  The fragility of this rock art is an understatement to say the least, and while drawings are remarkable, they are not popularly promoted in order to help protect their sanctity. 

The Hot Springs Campground is very primitive but will accommodate tent camping and small to medium sized motor homes.  Hart Mountain Hot SpringsNo water or other services are provided.  The Hot Springs Campground has 30 camping sites. The camping spots are first-come first-serve, unmarked, and at no cost.   The land at the campground is nestled nicely between rolling hills, and is fairly plush with aspen groves amidst a more barren prairie-like surrounding landscape.  There can be remarkable setting sunlight on top of the surrounding mountain peaks in prime Spring and Summer months.

Most notable at the Hot Springs Campground is the Hart Mountain Hot Springs (also known as Antelope Hot Springs).  Hart Mountain Hot SpringsThis is a natural hot springs that is open year round.  The hot springs is located in the middle of the campground, at the head of Rock Creek, and is surrounded by an aspen-dotted meadow.  This natural rock pool is 6 by 9 feet, and 5 feet deep, made of bedrock, and can accommodate up to 6 people.  The water is a very comfortable 100-104 degrees F and bubbles up from the pool’s gravel and bedrock bottom.  A small ladder at one end of the pool provides convenience in getting in and out of the warm water.  The Hart Mountain Hot Springs is well defined by the castle-like stone and concrete wall around the spring.  This nicely constructed feature makes the hot springs very relaxing, can add privacy, and adds a bit of style and flair to this otherwise natural and rugged landscape.

The area is highly remote, without electricity, and there is no drinking water outside of the refuge headquarters.   Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeThe roads are unpaved and are well graded for passenger cars up to the headquarters.  However, many of the beyond and surrounding roads are simply jeep trails and require four-wheel drive, especially during wet conditions.  This is an isolated area with miles of open land surrounding the mountain.  The nearest fuel and food supplies are in Plush, 25 miles west and Frenchglen, which is 50 miles east. 

This is a destination reminiscent of life on the range with its throwback to Oregon’s pioneering start.  The picturesque land embodies solitude and has unrivaled majesty.  The refuge has a sense of calm that is in stark contrast with many more highly visited recreational destinations in the state.  With craggy vistas and flat sage-tipped plateaus, to rolling hills and aspen-lined springs, the landscape is a pristine ground for both discovery and tranquility.   Hart Mountain is truly a home on the range where the deer and the antelope play.

For more pictures of Hart Mountain and the surrounding landscape, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

From Lakeview, take US Highway 395 North from Lakeview about 5 miles. Turn right on Oregon State Highway 140 and go east 15 miles; turn left at the sign to the Refuge.  Then proceed 19 miles to Plush and continue through Plush about 1 mile; turn right at the sign to the Refuge. Follow the Hart Mountain Road to the Refuge Headquarters.

Painted Hills | John Day Fossil Beds

•March 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Painted Hills is one of three units comprising the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Painted Hills OregonNear Mitchell, Oregon, the area is regarded as one of the most beautifully striking regions in Eastern Oregon. The Painted Hills receive their name from spectacular colors and banded striations that appear hand-painted with an artistic quality that seems almost unnatural and highly surreal. These colors shift in appearance throughout different times of the day due to the varying angles of the sun. They absolutely explode in vibrancy after a thunderstorm, with a full saturated color palette due to the polarizing light filtering the sun’s rays through the clouds. Colors range from burnt red, amber, orange, yellow, and gold, with streaks of black and grey reminiscent of an artist’s creation. The Painted Hills of Oregon are a top destination for painters and landscape photographers alike, searching to capture the beauty of this protected region.

As part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the Painted Hills makes up one unit of the overall 14,000 acres of semi-desert shrublands and colorful badlands of the John Day River Basin in Eastern Oregon. Painted Hills OregonOther units include Sheep Rock and Clarno. The area became a National Monument in 1975 and has been attracting droves of visitors ever since. The John Day Fossil Beds rank third in annual attendance out of the four national parks and monuments located in Oregon. Crater Lake attracts the most visitors followed by the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. All three units of the monument are in the John Day River Basin. The John Day River is the longest undammed tributary into the Columbia River. The South Fork of the John Day River flows west through the landscape, meandering by cattle ranches, farms, and communities, before turning north as it enters the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. After passing through Picture Gorge, the John Day River is joined by Rock Creek for the next 8 miles and flows through the Sheep Rock Unit of the monument.

The park is well-regarded for its abundance of preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that were part of the Eocene period 44 million years ago, and the late Miocene approximately 7 million years ago. Sheep Rock reveals almost 25 million years of geologic record, from tropical volcanoes about 40 million years ago, to the 15-million year-old basalts that cap its peak. Fossils found in the John Day Strata include a wide variety of plants and more than 100 species of mammals, including dogs, cats, saber-toothed tigers, camels, horses, and small rodents. Built in 2003, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center located at the Sheep Rock unit, is the best place to see fossils at the monument. Visitors can watch scientists diligently working on fossils from behind a window. The center features interactive displays, including “touch tables” and microscopes, paintings, murals, and displays illustrating the various regions where the fossils were found and the variety of plant and animal fossils discovered in the monument. The center is named for Thomas Condon, who was a Christian minister interested in the fossils he found in the region, which led him to studying geology and paleontology. He was appointed as Oregon’s first State Geologist and became the first professor of Geology at the University of Oregon.

The Painted Hills at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is noted mostly for its colorful geology made of heavily eroded volcanic ash layers deposited during ancient times when the area was a river plain with a warm tropical climate. Over time, the layers of ash formed with different mineral compositions, which led to the incredible bands of color seen today. The red and orange hues are from laterite soil which formed by floodplain deposits. The grey coloring is from mudstone, shale, and siltstone. The striations of black soil are lignite which was vegetation that grew along the floodplain. It is from these layers of ash, minerals, and vegetative matter, coupled with eons of erosion from the powerful forces of nature that caused the painted hills to emerge as we see them today.

The Painted Hills unit is open year-round with easy access for all visitors. John Day Fossil BedsThere are a handful of well-marked trails to guide you through the park. As the area is fairly open and level, these are considered more of a moderate walk than a hike. The Painted Hills Overlook Trail is ½ mile, and provides views of the most popular viewing point. At another section of the unit is the Painted Cove Trail at ¼ mile in length. Much of this trail is on a boardwalk which offers an extremely close-up view of the Painted Coves and their entire burnt red and orange glow. Visible from the Painted Coves is a view of a picturesque reservoir that is inaccessible as it is private land. The Leaf Hill Trail at ¼ mile takes you to the location of significant scientific studies in the 1920s and 1990s where thousands of leaf fossils were found and preserved. The recently developed Red Hill Trail at ¼ mile is located at the far western edge of the unit and was created as a short walk to a colorful lookout. A slightly longer hike is the Carroll Rim Trail at 1 ½ miles. This trail takes you three hundred feet in elevation to an overlook atop the Painted Hills. The trails in the area are short and purposeful, in order to keep visitors away from the delicate hills. The “paintings” are so incredibly delicate that a man-made foot track can scar the hills for many years. Therefore, extreme caution is advised and full respect for the landscape is essential.

The appearance of the park varies greatly with the lighting and seasons. John Day Fossil BedsHowever, the late afternoon is predominately the best time of day to visit as the day’s light has calmed, which helps to strengthen the visual coloring of the hills. A popular time of year to visit is between April and May, when rivers of small yellow flowers run down within the cracks of the Painted Hills creating strong leading lines and colorful contrast. This is often a busier time as countless landscape photographers and artists make the journey to capture the splendid scenery. Another prime time to visit is just after a light dusting of snow. The stark white of the snow juxtaposed against the colorful striations makes for a strong composition. As with most landscape photography locations, fantastic end of day light after a thunderstorm with dramatic skies is quintessential. The Painted Hills unit is a top destination in Oregon for nature scenery and photography.

For more pictures of the John Day Basin, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

The Painted Hills Unit is located 9 miles northwest of the town of Mitchell, Oregon. The entrance is 6 miles north from Highway 26 on Burnt Ranch Road. The drive is highly photographic with many agricultural and farm scenes along the way.

Alvord Desert | Steens Mountain

•October 8, 2012 • 2 Comments

The Alvord Desert, located near the southeastern corner of Oregon, rivals the splendor and solitude of many of the better known desert playa landscapes in Nevada or California and is an under-appreciated jewel of the state of Oregon. Alvord Desert With the Steens Mountain looming to the west, the alkali flat of the Alvord Desert is not only one of the largest in Oregon, but it is the most remote and sensationally wild. The flat stretches 6 miles wide and 11 miles long during the dry season after the runoff from the Steens has abide and the sun has scorched the playa to a truly dry and barren land. During the wet months, the playa is a shallow alkali lake posing a much contrasted scene from the more desirable desert landscape. Yet, year-round Mann Lake which is located below the east-face of the Steens Mountain is a desert oasis attracting anglers with its abundance of Lahonton cutthroat trout which have adapted to survive in the alkaline desert waters. Truly a destination for recreation, the Alvord Desert is popular for camping, hiking, land sailing, glider flying, recreational driving, photography, and wildlife viewing.

Nearby Mann Lake is a shallow playa lake on the northern portion of the Alvord Valley. The waters of Mann Lake are fed by a system of intermittent streams created by the snow runoff from the east slope of the Steens Mountain. Mann LakeMann Lake is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which maintains the lake’s population of Lahontan cutthroat trout. The oval shaped lake basin is only 14 feet deep at its maximum depth and is relatively small at just 276 acres. Featuring extensive weed-beds that are easily wadeable at the shoreline makes it a popular fishing destination. There are two boat ramps and two vault restrooms at Mann Lake. Camping is possible in open areas away from the lake shore which are accessible by a rugged gravel road looping the lake. With prime fishing and exceptional views of the Steens Mountain, Mann Lake is a recommended fishing spot for those seeking a desolate fishing experience.

Most notable in the Alvord Desert playa is the ever-looming magnificence of the Steens Mountain. The Steens Mountain stretches along Harney County with its peak towering above the Alvord Desert. The summit is certainly impressive at 9,733 feet, but considering the valley floor of the Alvord Desert is already at 4,200 feet, the entire area is considered high desert. The length of the Steens Mountain is impressive and running 50 miles, it is often confused as a series of mountains. Yet, the majestic Steens is a single mountain and is the largest-fault block mountain in the northern Great Basin. Many animals make home on the Steens Mountain and surrounding valley. Bighorn sheep can be spotted on the rocky escarpments, along with pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and golden eagles. There is no finer place in Oregon to view Steens Mountain than from the Alvord Desert. With its famous notch in the east ridge of Kiger Gorge, the basalt craggy peaks tower above the Alvord Desert with impressive prominence and grandeur.

The Alvord Desert is home to the Alvord Hot Springs which is privately owned, but open year-round for public use as a no-fee hot springs. The Alvord Hot Springs is a geothermal spring with a source temperature of 174 degrees, but thanks to a system of cooling pipes, it bubbles to the surface at a comfortable 112 degrees. This is a very rugged hot springs a few yards from the gravel East Steens Road. The concrete soaking pool has a partially covered seating area with much of the pool open to enjoy the views of the Alvord Desert. While not glamorous, this view of the Alvord Desert makes this hot springs exceptionally remarkable for a place to soak in this remote and uninhabited landscape.

During the wet season, the Alvord playa is a shallow lake. Bird watching provides a variety of resident and migratory species. The area is home to nesting long-billed curlew, killdeer, and snowy plover, along with various other species. Alvord DesertHowever, receiving only 7 inches of rain a year, and during the late Spring and Summer months when the sun has evaporated the snow melt runoff from the Steens, the Alvord Desert emerges as a near perfectly flat dry lakebed that is suitable to drive across, or to land small aircraft. Ideal conditions exist June through November. This is the perfect time to visit the area as recreational activities are endless. While parts of the surrounding area are private land, much of the Alvord Desert is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Private areas are marked as ‘no access’ and the BLM portions are open for free reign to drive, camp, and explore. As long as you respect the environment and obey the signs and regulations when posted, the area is an ideal paradise for discovery and recreation.

With a couple rough dirt roads shooting off of the main East Steens Road, you can drive your vehicle directly onto the desert and drive openly for miles. Alvord Desert The playa is remarkably flat and a very smooth ride with only the occasional pebble or stick rolling under the tires. Not only is driving on a dry desert in pretty much the middle of nowhere exciting, the absolute solitude makes it memorable. You can camp in the middle of the desert with nothing but 3 miles of dry cracked earth on either side of you. However, a word of caution: During the night, the high desert winds can easily whip water at far corners of the playa towards the center due to the near perfect flatness of the ground. Therefore, what was once a dry desert floor can become a muddy and sticky trap, stranding you in inches of mud and water.

This is truly a remote outback and inhospitable Oregon territory at its finest. The nearest town, Fields, is a 45 minute drive to the south. Throughout the area are Jeep trails that seem to lead yonder to the unknown and in many instances there is no real destination as it is the journey that is the purpose of the travel. There is no potable water, restroom facilities, or designated camping areas. Cell phone service is limited and assistance is unavailable except from fellow travelers to the area. Come prepared and anticipate the unexpected.

In the middle of the Alvord Desert, there is nothing but pure silence. Not just lacking the sound of cars or people, but absolute silence without any sound whatsoever. There are no leaves rustled by the wind, there are no birds flying above, there are no sounds of crickets. Alvord DesertThere is solely unquestionable true silence where the only sound is your heart beating. Occasionally a fly may make the journey 3 miles from the sagebrush lined shore which sounds like a jet engine buzzing its way towards you, but after that it is back to a truly eerie stillness. At night, with a wide-open celestial sky, the experience is vastly unworldly and reminiscent of a Martian terrain. The barren nature of the playa contrasted with the beauty of the Steens’ snow capped summit, along with the pure calm of solitude makes the Alvord Desert a top destination in Oregon for hiking and photography.

For more pictures of the Alvord Desert, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

From Burns, take State Highway 78 southeast for approximately 72 miles. Turn right onto the East Steens Road and travel southwest for approximately 23 miles until you reach the Mann Lake Recreation Site turn-off on your right. The Alvord Desert is located approximately 20 miles south of Mann Lake by way of the East Steens Road.

Seal Rock State Park

•June 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

Seal Rock State Park, in Seal Rock, Oregon is a wayside just off Highway 101 featuring large off-shore rock formations, tide pools, and a small sandy beach. The parking area, which is developed for day-use only, provides restrooms and a picnic area among spruce, cedar, and shore pine trees. Located approximately 5 miles north from the town of Waldport and 10 miles south of Newport, Seal Rock is conveniently located for a nature and photographic tour of the many outstanding rock formations and tidal habitats along the Oregon coast. Seal Rock attracts countless beachcombers, agate hunters, tide pool explorers, sea life viewers, and outdoor photographers who are bound to capture the raw beauty found in this Oregon coastal jewel.

Seal Rock’s stunning offshore rock formations, which are approximately a half mile from, and run 2.5 miles parallel to the beach, are a refuge for seals, sea lions, and a variety of sea birds. The area is a protected portion of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Within this cove is a large collection of tide pools with colorful and abundant marine life. Along the trail from the Seal Rock viewpoint is a highly impressive sea stack made of sandstone known locally as Elephant Rock. The massive sea stack serves as a resting sanctuary for migrating birds and a nesting habitat for several sea bird species. To the right of Elephant Rock is a chain of darkly colored igneous rocks that rise many feet above the ocean surface and extend far into the sea. With the endless crashing waves among the flanks of the rock chain, the scene is extraordinary. During the winter storm months, many storm watchers will gather to the Seal Rock viewpoint to admire and photograph the relentless thrashing from the ocean.

The time to visit Seal Rock State Park is during low tide as the sandy beach is rather small otherwise, and the various tide pools will be revealed in the inter-tidal area sheltered by the immense rock formations a half mile from the shore. Tides of 0.00 feet or lower (minus tide) are best for viewing the tide pools. With the optimal time two hours before low tide, the pools are highly noted for plentiful sea life including anemones, purple sea urchins, sea stars, sculpins, surfperch, hermit crabs, and countless barnacles, mussels, and sea vegetation. Unexpected “sneaker waves” are quite common in the Seal Rock recreation area, so it is prudent to stay focused and keep an eye on the surf at all times.

Aptly named, the Seal Rock area is a probable location to view seals and sea lions in the surf and offshore coastal rocks. Pacific harbor seals are the most commonly observed seal along the Oregon coast. Harbor seal pups often use the rocks as resting places while their mothers feed offshore. The Stellar (Northern) and California sea lions are the two most frequent species found along the Oregon coast. Photographing the seals and sea lions resting on the off shore rock formations is possible during very low tides, since while still separated from the shore by the ocean, they are more accessible for viewing and you can approach closer due to the exposed sand from the low tide. Additionally, whales have been spotted in the waters around Seal Rock. The best time of year to spot whales varies from species to species. Grey whales are best spotted in the spring (March/April) or winter (November/December). Humpback whales are best viewed in the summer and fall (July-October). Orcas may occasionally be observed from April through August and although not common, harbor porpoises may be seen throughout the year.

Thanks to the dynamic geologic activity from 14 million years ago, the Seal Rock area encompasses a varied and remarkable rugged landscape of rock formations and tidal habitats. Well-known for prime sea life viewing and storm watching, Seal Rock Oregon is also a notable destination for Oregon coast photography. Seal Rock offers varied scenery, from extensive rock formations both up close and offshore, providing depth of field. The view of the small sandy beach is scattered with numerous logs that have drifted to shore by the unrelenting waves, which also crash strongly against walls of the sea stack formations. The images offered are well balanced between wide-angle landscape shots, nature and sea life, as well as macro pictures of ocean life in the exposed tide pools. Due to the variety of scenery, as well as the convenient access of the location, Seal Rock State Park is a top destination in Oregon to capture the beauty of the Oregon coast.

For more pictures of the Seal Rock State Park in Seal Rock Oregon, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

Seal Rock State Park is located off Highway 101 either approximately 5 miles north of Waldport or 10 miles south of Newport, Oregon. There is no fee to use this day-only park. Camping is available nearby at the KOA Waldport campground.

Important to Note: All coastal rocks and islands are protected as National Wildlife Refuges and are closed to all public use to protect breeding wildlife. Tide pool life is protected by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Special restrictions prohibit or limit the collection of intertidal marine life.

Ona Beach State Park

•June 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Along the Oregon coast there is a little known stretch of sand called Ona Beach.  At Ona Beach State Park, there are parking, restrooms, a large grassy area, and shaded picnic tables right off Highway 101.  With the atmosphere rather dark and lackluster, the place feels like just another pit stop along this well-traveled highway.  However, after a quarter mile hike through dense pine trees and over a footbridge above Beaver Creek, a new scene emerges.   The area opens to a spacious and lively view of an expansive sandy beach, scattered driftwood, and to the right, a coastal wildlife outlet where Beaver Creek pours into the ocean before reaching its final destination.   

To the left is where the real treasure awaits.  After a short walk south along the coastline is an area that is reminiscent of a Martian landscape.  A peculiar landscape that is typically viewable under two conditions: the first being that it is low tide or minus tide, and secondly, after a  winter season when pounding waves and strong tides have washed away sand and expose long basalt ridges, tunnels, and holes on the beach floor.  The view is otherworldly and quite remarkable for originality in the long list of unusual rock formations along the Oregon coast.  Ona Beach is a true geological oddity.

ona beach oregonOna Beach is a worthy location for tide pool viewing, agate hunting, clamming, and beachcombing.  However, its unique character makes it prime for photography.  When the conditions are right and the rocky ocean floor is fully exposed, the view of this unusual landscape is immensely impressive.   The beach is covered with geological curiosities that lend originality to a photograph.  Visually, the scene covers a full spectrum of color from a wide dynamic tonal range of absolute black through pure white and includes the sweet spot of many grays in between.   Several of the Ona Beach rock formations are covered in algae, which vary from dark amber to a bright canary yellow and many patches of fluorescent green from the various sea grasses.  There are dark, shadowy igneous rocks that have been hidden by ocean depths, but also stark white formations that are exposed and weathered clean by the pounding waves and bleached by the unremitting sunlight. 

Ona Beach formations range in appearance from those that resemble intricate wood carvings to formations that replicate the smooth craters on a lunar surface.  With basalt boulders that are rounded and polished by the crashing surf, and also positioned at various locations by the moving tides, the place takes on a feeling that seems more purposely artistic than random.  Long rows of black rocks that are partially exposed in the white sand have near-perfect perpendicularity that feels intentional rather than haphazard.  The end result is a landscape that feels like it was created with an artistic eye.

For more pictures of the Ona Beach State Park, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

Ona Beach State Park is located off Highway 101 either approximately 7 miles north of Waldport or 8 miles south of Newport, Oregon.  There is no fee to use this day-only park.  Camping is available nearby at the KOA Waldport campground.

Important to Note:  All coastal rocks and islands are protected as National Wildlife Refuges and are closed to all public use to protect breeding wildlife.  Tide pool life is protected by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Special restrictions prohibit or limit the collection of intertidal marine life.

Lake Owyhee State Park

•October 30, 2011 • 2 Comments

Lake Owyhee State Park is an oasis in the middle of the spectacular desert canyons located 28 miles south of Ontario in Malheur County, Oregon.  The state park is home to the Owyhee Reservoir, a 53-mile lake formed by the damming of the Owyhee River.  Owyhee River | OregonThis man-made body of water known as Lake Owyhee, which is the longest in Oregon, offers prime high desert scenery with the Owyhee Mountains to the east and surrounded by long desert buttes and hills amidst craggy and towering peaks known broadly as the Owyhee Uplands.  Outdoor recreational activities include fishing, boating, camping, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing, rock hounding, and landscape photography. The lake is noted for excellent fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, brown bullhead, yellow perch, catfish, and trout.  The surrounded area is home to abundant wildlife including bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, coyotes, mule deer, mountain lions, and wild horses.  Truly a wild and sparsely populated area, Lake Owyhee State Park is the ideal base camp for hiking and exploring Oregon’s badlands.

The key feature of the lake, creating what would be an otherwise barren landscape, is the Owyhee Dam on the Owyhee River.  The dam rises 417 feet and is 835 feet long.  Interestingly, at the time of its construction (1928-1932), it was the world’s highest dam. Owyhee Dam | OregonOwyhee Dam was a testing ground for theories being developed to assist with the design and construction of Hoover Dam, whose size is 300 feet higher than Owyhee, and was vital in developing these new construction methods.  The result of damming the Owyhee River results today in 53 miles of water filling the narrow and deep canyon walls with highly colorful geological formations formed by eons of volcanic eruptions and weathering from the passage of time.

There are two campgrounds at the park with seasonal camping from April 15th through October 31st.  The main McCormack Campground has 29 RV electrical sites with water, nine tent sites with water nearby, two tepees, hot showers, toilets, with paved parking, and picnic tables. Lake Owyhee | Oregon The Indian Creek Campground has 27 RV electrical sites with water, and five primitive tent sites.  Both campgrounds have a boat ramp for access to the lake.   The Gordon Gulch day-use area has a boat ramp and a large, shaded picnic area.

However, some of the best camping is not within the state park itself, but is found in the open and rugged areas along the astounding Owyhee River.  The highlight of the area is the 22-mile drive to the state park on Owyhee Lake Drive.  Along this picturesque drive, the scenery is breathtaking and some of the finest in Oregon.  There are several small offshoots from the main road where you can find the perfect rustic spot to make your own camp, fish along the river, or start off on a hike to a gulch seen in the distance.  Owyhee Canyon | OregonOwyhee Lake Drive takes you deep into desert country and winds through countless turns through the narrow Owyhee Canyon and along the meandering Owyhee River.  

The view along this journey captures everything an outdoorsman and landscape photographer desires.  From orange mountain cliffs with burnt red striations of volcanic ash, to vari-colored tuffs with bands of yellows and shades of lavender.   The drive features desert plateaus with sage brush with silvery tips and dry grasses forming fields of brown.  With gray sand and stream deposits along the banks of the flowing Owyhee River, and the oasis of green surrounding the water, the area represents many spectrums of sensational color.  Owyhee River | Oregon From spectacular landscapes to an abundance of wildlife and hiking opportunities to explore, Lake Owyhee State Park and the highly recommended Owyhee Canyon is a top destination in Oregon to explore and photograph Oregon’s wild and majestic badlands.

For more pictures of the Owyhee Uplands and Malheur County, visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

Lake Owyhee State Park is off Highway 201, 33 miles SW of Nyssa, Oregon.  From Highway 201, turn west at Owyhee Junction onto Owyhee Avenue for 5 miles, then turn south (left) onto Owyhee Dam Cutoff Rd for 22 miles to the park.

Mt. Hood at Lost Lake

•October 26, 2011 • 4 Comments

Lost Lake in Hood River County, Oregon is located just ten miles northwest of Mt. Hood within the heart of Mt. Hood’s beauty and scenic grandeur.   Mt. Hood Lost LakeWhile Oregon may have at least 19 areas named “Lost Lake,” this is the one droves of visitors always seem to find.  With a famed “postcard” view of Mt. Hood’s northwest face reflected in its waters, the proximity and view of the mountain from Lost Lake is unrivaled, making it one of the most photographed locations in Oregon.  An amber glow of Mt. Hood’s snowfields and the evening reflection of Mt. Hood in the cool still water of the lake is the reason why photographers make this trek.   Oregon hikers and nature enthusiasts come to the area to view the mountain and surrounding water, old-growth forests, wildflowers, and diverse wildlife habitat and viewing opportunities.

The snow-fed lake at 3,100 feet in elevation and with a perimeter measuring 3.4 miles is surrounded by the vast Mt. Hood National Forest.  At 167 feet deep, Lost Lake is the second-deepest body of water in the Mount Hood National Forest after Wathum Lake at 177 feet.  The surrounding area is home to several threatened species and has been targeted by conservation groups for wilderness protection. The area is also part of the proposed Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness which would prevent development, logging, mining, and possibly require the removal of structures and roads.

Lost Lake is privately owned andMt. Hood Lost Lake the Lost Lake Resort offers 120 RV and tent camp sites on a “first-come first-serve” basis.   The camping sites are quite large and well-spaced, with impressive giant Douglas Firs, White Pines, Cedars, and Mountain Hemlocks throughout that provide remarkable seclusion considering the number of sites available in the campground.  Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and boating, are allowed on the lake as long as the boats are non-motorized.   Fish are plentiful with opportunities to catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout, as well as Kokanee salmon.  On the north shore of the lake there is a large day use area for picnicking as well as a small general store with basic amenities.   The area is perfect for families and day-trippers.  Additionally, the resort can provide boating and fishing gear rentals.

The picturesque area offers a variety of hiking trails including the Shoreline Trail #656 which is an easy walk around the lake totaling 3.2 miles.  Along the hike there are countless views of Mount Hood with the lake in the foreground.  The hiking trail takes you around the lake and through old-growth timber, wildflowers, and swampy meadows.  The hike is easy, with a boardwalk at times and also passes through the day-use picnic area and campsite along the shoreline.  Mt. Hood | Lost LakeThere is also the more advanced hike, the Huckleberry Mountain Trail #617 which joins the Pacific Crest Trail. This hike begins at the south-end of the lake where you find a junction for the Huckleberry Mountain Trail #617 and climbs steeply for 2.5 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail.  Hiking back from this junction with the Pacific Crest Trail will create an approximate 7.5 mile round-trip and a moderate hike.  For a hike to see a view of Mount Hood, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens (on a clear day), take the Lost Lake Butte Trail which starts from the general store parking area and climbs the western slope of the area.  The hike is pretty steep, climbing 1,400 feet in 2 miles.

Part Jersey Shore –part Camp Kumbaya –all walks of life visit Lost Lake.  Each visit for their own reasons as the area offers outdoor recreational diversity.  Remarkably, all find harmony.  As it has been a favorite tourist destination for decades, expect people.  However, with 3.4 miles of shoreline as well as miles of hiking trails taking you deep into the Mount Hood National Forest, serenity is very possible.   Whether it is boating, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, photographing, or simply enjoying a picnic along the shore, Lost Lake at Mt. Hood is a top destination in Oregon for hiking and photography.

To see more pictures of Mt. Hood at Lost Lake, and Oregon photography visit www.oregonfoto.com.

To Get There:

The Resort is 85 miles from Portland by way of Hood River. Take Interstate 84 east up the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River, then drive southwest to Dee and follow the signs to Lost Lake.  From Portland you can take Mt. Hood Highway 26 to Zig Zag, turn left onto Lolo Pass Road and follow the signs to Lost Lake. This is a truly scenic route to the lake but it does have 4 miles of gravel road over the pass and many turns along the way before you reach the campground.

Lost Lake is generally accessible from mid-May until snow blocks the road, usually late October.


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