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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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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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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Fields of Pink Wild Onion

Wildflowers of Big Summit Prairie

The best spot in Central Oregon to view spring wildflowers? For sheer variety and extent, the loop road around Big Summit Prairie is hard to beat in late May and early June. Located at 4,500’ elevation in Ochoco National Forest about 30 miles east of Prineville, this 15,000-acre prairie is mostly privately-owned, but is surrounded by wildflower meadows, dry grasslands and rock prairies on Forest Service land.
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