Close-up View of Spotted Frog in Marsh

Big Marsh - Paradise for Oregon Spotted Frogs

Once a shallow 2,000-acre lake, which was filled by volcanic ash during the eruption of Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago, Big Marsh today is one of the largest, high-elevation wetland/marshes in the nation. A half-hour drive west of Highway 97 from Crescent, it’s a one-of-a-kind resource supporting a wide diversity of Central Oregon wildlife — from elk, to river otters, to sandhill cranes — plus the largest population of threatened spotted frogs in Oregon. A 2.4-mile cross-country ramble invites visitors to explore this natural wonder.
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View of Old-Growth Fir at Candle Creek

Old-Growth Douglas Firs at Candle Creek

When Central Oregonians think of Douglas firs, we usually envision the majestic coastal firs. But Central Oregon has a distinct inland variety, the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, which is morphologically and genetically different from its coastal cousin. Occurring from British Columbia south to New Mexico, these cold-hardy trees can grow up to 150’ in height, 6’-8’ in width and can live more than 500 years. A 30-acre grove of these old-growth firs is found on a short, easily-accessible hike at Candle Creek in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.
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Photo of the Dry Meadow Fen

Fen Wetlands in the Jack Creek Headwaters

Tucked away in a seldom-visited corner of Fremont-Winema National Forest, just a half-hour drive east of Highway 97 south of Crescent, is a collection of groundwater-fed fens (peat wetlands) supporting some of the richest concentrations of rare and distinctive plants in the Pacific Northwest. Formed in thick deposits of volcanic pumice from the eruption of Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago, these fens are permanently wet year-round, with a fascinating assortment of mosses, sedges, wildflowers and even carnivorous plants.
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Panoramic View of Balanced Rocks

Balanced Rocks of the Lower Metolius Canyon

Hidden and nearly unnoticed in the canyon lands above the Metolius River arm of Lake Billy Chinook are several small bowls with unique geologic formations, known as the “balanced rocks.” Carved by erosion over eons of time, these great slabs of rock weighing many tons are poised up to thirty feet in the air above pinnacles of softer rock. First recorded in 1855 by a railroad survey party traveling in the area, these balanced rock formations are accessible today by a short hike from a good road about thirty driving miles west of Culver.
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The Old Railway along the Deschutes River

Deschutes Canyon - Hiking Central Oregon's First Railway

The original railroad surveys of the Deschutes River Canyon, conducted in 1855 by Army engineers, concluded that “the Deschutes Valley is mostly a barren region…separated from the rest of the world by almost impassable barriers.” In fact, at the turn of the century, Central Oregon was the largest territory in the U.S. without a railroad. Only in the early 1900s, when its wealth of ponderosa pine was recognized by commercial interests, was serious rail construction begun south from the Columbia up the Deschutes River. Hikers today can follow a section of this now abandoned rail bed for many miles, with spectacular river and canyon views.
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