At the southernmost edge of the Blue Mountains, this area's alpine, once-glaciated ridges offer views across much of eastern Oregon. This Wilderness can be accessed from Prairie City via County Road 62 and Forest Road No. 13 and 1370. The lichen-covered 8-foot cylindrical stone monument atop Monument Rock may have been erected by pioneer sheepherders. This is a new Wilderness in the old landscape of the eastern Strawberry Mountains. Established in 1984 by the Oregon Wilderness Act, the 19,620-acre Wilderness spills from the Malheur National Forest onto the adjacent Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The northern end of the area lies across a watershed divide that separates drainages of the South Fork Burnt River, as well as two National Forests. The area ranges from about 5,200 feet in the lower regions to the 7,815-foot top of Table Rock.
In the lower lands you will find ponderosa pine, depending on where you go. You may also find lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, white fir, aspen, and juniper. If you look down, you will probably see elk sedge, pinegrass, wheatgrass, huckleberry, bluegrass, and many wildflowers. As you hike higher, you will find subalpine fir, just below the treeless mountain crests.
The area's diverse wildlife habitat is used by bear, deer, elk, badgers, and the rare wolverine. There are 70 species of birds including the creek-loving water ouzel (American dipper) and the pileated woodpecker.
The visiting season here generally runs between June and November. The John Day Valley funnels winter storms and summer thundershowers to the mountain ridges here. As a result the area receives 40 inches of annual precipitation, twice as much as the surrounding, arid lowlands. Summer brings hot days and chilly nights. Hunting is the most popular activity, with hiking and backpacking increasing in popularity. Table Rock Lookout draws many visitors and is one of the entry points to the Wilderness.
The fire lookout tower on Table Mountain is a good place to begain a visit to the Monument Rock area. After taking in the view, backtrack a half mile down the lookout road and take a level 2-mile stroll along Trail #365 to Bullrun Rock's 150-foot cliffs. To reach the trailhead from Prairie City, turn south from Highway 26 on Main Street, follow a paved road southeast 9 miles, turn left onto Road 13 for 12 miles, then take Road 1370 to the left.
The Bullrun Creek Trail starts out with 2 easy miles of hiking in a steep-sided canyon, but then climbs 2000 feet in 3.5 miles up a ridge to Bullrun Rock. Drive to the trailhead from Highway 26 by heading west from downtown Unity on a paved road for 1 mile, then turning left onto gravel road for 4 miles. Jog to the right on Road 1695, then follow Road 210 to the trail.
STRAWBERRY MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS
The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is located east of John Day, Oregon, in the Malheur National Forest. The area includes approximately 68,700 acres and encompasses the headwaters of Pine, Indian, Strawberry, Canyon, Bear, Lake, Wall, Roberts, and Big Creek. The area is dominated by the Strawberry Mountain Range with the highest point being Strawberry Mountain. This area has extremely diverse ecological makeup. Five of the seven major life zones in North America can be found here. It also supports native population of Rocky Mountain Elk and other wildlife. The additions including the Canyon Creek Research Natural Area have improved both the quantity and the quality of the wilderness experience.
The complex geological story of this landscape began millions of years ago with the buckling of an ancient sea floor beneath the area where the western part of the Strawberry Range now rises. Much later, volcanic ash and lava formed the eastern part of the range. Most recently, the glacial ice carved its classic signature--U-shaped valleys--into the mountains. The ice also hollowed out the rock beds that today hold the seven alpine lakes of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness--rare pleasures in the arid wilderness experience.
In a normal year, most people use the Wilderness between July and November. Snow may be encountered at higher elevations any time of the year. The climate from September is mostly mild, with clear skies. Summertime thunderstorms may occur, usually in cycles lasting several days. Daytime temperatures normally range between 30 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit; nights are cool. Freezing temperatures can occur any time of the year.
When you go to the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, be prepared for hiking in the high country. The land is rugged, and elevations range from 4,000 to the 9,038-foot summit of Strawberry Mountain. Over a hundred miles of trails cross the wilderness, offering vista after vista to the enterprising hiker. In 1984, the Oregon Wilderness Act more than doubled the original area of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness to its current total of 68,700 acres.
Water from springs, lakes, ponds, and streams should have proper treatment before you drink it. No matter how pure it may look, surface water should be considered unsafe to drink until properly treated. The most common disease associated with surface water is giardiasis, caused by ingesting the microscopic parasite Giardia lamblia. To be safe, boil or treat the water before drinking. The recommended treatment is to bring water to a rolling boil for five minutes.
If you are patient, lucky, and observant, you may see many kinds of wildlife in the wilderness. The list includes: elk, mule deer, antelope, black bear, cougar, California bighorn sheep, ruffed and blue grouse, pileated woodpecker, sharp-shinned hawk, bald eagle, pine marten, mink, beaver, and many more birds, fur-bearing animals, and other creatures. In fact, 378 kinds of animals and 22 fish species can be found in the area.