Mima Mound with Rock Ring

Mima Mounds - A Mystery on the Shaniko Plateau

In our scientific age, it’s hard to believe that the origins of any landform could still be unexplained, but this is the case with the extensive soil mounds and their encircling rock rings found northeast of Madras on the Shaniko Plateau. Known as mima (my-muh) mounds, several theories have been advanced about their formation, from differential erosion, to Ice Age freeze-thaw cycles, to soil movement by foraging gophers. But no one theory is widely accepted and these unusual land features remain a puzzle to geologists today. Hundreds of acres of this mima mound topography can be explored on BLM land near Shaniko.
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Photo of Two Spawning Kokanees

Spawning Kokanee at Crane Prairie Reservoir

One magnificent spectacle of nature that recurs every fall in Central Oregon is the spawning of kokanee salmon in the tributary streams of local Cascade lakes. Though an introduced species, these landlocked, lake-dwelling sockeye salmon are no less impressive. Several local streams have kokanee runs in the fall, but three tributaries of Crane Prairie Reservoir — the Upper Deschutes, Cultus and Quinn Rivers — are less-visited, beautiful and easy to access. If looking for an outing on a warm, sunny day in late September or early October, these three kokanee spawning sites are worth a visit.
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Panoramic View of Fen Wetland

Fen Wetlands near Little Cultus Lake

What the heck are fens? Unlike bogs, which are acidic, low in nutrients and dominated by sphagnum moss, fens are fed by mineral-rich groundwater, creating neutral or alkaline peatlands with a rich diversity of brown mosses, sedges, wildflowers and even carnivorous plants. Along the east slopes of the Cascades in Central Oregon, fens are rare, occurring only between 4,500’-6,000’ in isolated perched aquifers over slow-draining glacial till from the last Ice Age. Two secluded but accessible fens can be found near Little Cultus Lake.
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Headwater Springs of Fall River

Fall River - Bellwether of Climate Change

Spring-derived streams are fairly common along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon, including the Metolius River, Cultus River, Quinn River, Brown’s Creek and Fall River. The combination of heavy precipitation along the Cascade crest, permeable volcanic bedrock, plus groundwater flow serves to recharge all of these spring-fed streams. But Fall River has been the most extensively studied as a local indicator of climate change — besides having a delightful hiking trail along its banks to explore.
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Aerial View of Klamath Marsh Narrows

Historical Crossing at Klamath Marsh Narrows

Sometimes the distinctive natural landforms of a place combine with centuries of human activity to create an exceptional mix of geography and history. The Klamath Marsh Narrows is such a place. This three-quarter mile crossing, in the midst of 65 square miles of sprawling marshland, has been used by Native Americans for millennia, by the John C. Fremont expedition in 1843, and by travelers down to the present day. It’s one of the best birding spots in Central Oregon, and hikers can follow in Fremont’s footsteps along the edge of the grasslands, enjoying solitude and sweeping Cascade mountain views.
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Panoramic Photo of Tumuli Lava

Tumuli Lava - A Backdoor into the Badlands

What are tumuli (besides the plural of tumulus)? From the Latin tumidus, meaning swollen or bulging in shape, a tumulus is a circular, domed lava structure up to 30’ high and 60’ in diameter, formed by the upward pressure of actively-flowing lava against its cooling crust. Along with its elongated cousin, the pressure ridge, these fascinating lava formations can be explored on a less-traveled trail in the Badlands Wilderness, just 15 miles east of Bend.
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