Last weekend, KP and I tackled the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, an awesome 278,000-acre slab of high-desert goodness. From the Hart Mountain NAR Website:
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is located on a massive fault block ridge that ascends abruptly nearly three quarters of a mile above the Warner Valley floor in a series of rugged cliffs, steep slopes, and knife-like ridges. Visitors experience spectacular views of the beautiful Warner Valley Wetlands while ascending the west side entrance road to headquarters.The west face of the mountain is cut by several deep gorges. Hart, Potter, and DeGarmo canyons, the most rugged, extend from the valley floor to the top of the main ridge. The east side of the mountain is less precipitous, descending in a series of rolling hills and low ridges to the sagebrush-grasslands typical of southeastern Oregon and the Great Basin. The rugged diversity of the terrain creates a rich mix of habitat types, home to more than 300 species of wildlife. Featured species include pronghorn antelope, California bighorn sheep, mule deer, sage grouse, and redband trout. The 278,000-acre refuge is one of the most expansive wildlife habitats in the arid West free of domestic livestock. Since its creation in 1936 as a range for remnant herds of pronghorn antelope, management of the refuge has broadened to include conservation of all wildlife species characteristic of this high desert habitat and restoration of native ecosystems for the public’s enjoyment, education, and appreciation.
The local conservation organization, Friends of Hart Mountain, has some great notes on its Website about the biology of the region.
It’s a 6-hour drive from Eugene, across Willamette Pass, through Chiloquin, Lakeview and Plush. We arrived Friday night, set up camp at one of the free sites at the hot spring camp ground, then headed out for the Warner Wetlands, a series of seasonal lakes at the bottom of the Warner Valley at the base of Hart Mountain. We were on the lookout for sandhill cranes, and instead spotted some pelicans and herons, and sunset over Hart Lake.
That night, we went back to the campground and got in the tub for a soak and watched the stars come out. It’s so dark out on the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada corner. When we went back to the tent and got out the binoculars, the number of stars multiplied by a power of ten.