Eagle Cap Wilderness Resources & History
Wildlife, Forests, and Wildflowers
In the vast 350,461 acre Eagle Cap Wilderness you will find an array of exquisite wildflowers, small groves of old growth forest, and a variety of interesting wildlife.
In the summer months, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk roam the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Black bears are seen on occasion eating huckleberries alongside a creek and cougars hide out among the forest and rocky outcroppings. On rare occasions, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep or mountain goats can be seen. Smaller mammals that inhabit the area year-round include the pika, pine martens, badgers, squirrels, and marmots are sometimes heard in the brush or amongst the rocks. Keep your eyes to the sky for peregrine falcon, bald eagle, golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, or the gray-crowned rosy finch.
Plant communities range from low elevation grasslands and ponderosa pine forest to alpine meadows. Engelmann spruce, larch, mountain hemlock, sub-alpine fir and whitebark pine can be found in the higher elevations. Across the meadows you might spot a variety of Indian paintbrush, sego lilies, elephanthead, larkspur, shooting star, and bluebells.
The Role of Fire In Wilderness
Fire is a natural and important part of the wilderness ecosystem. The Eagle Cap Wilderness has a Prescribed Natural Fire Plan which directs managers to allow lightning caused fires to burn when they mimic natural occurrences. In addition, managers will occasionally ignite a fire under special prescriptions to reduce unnatural full loads so that future lightning caused fires may be allowed to burn. The Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center has current information on fire situations.
Wilderness Planning and Restoration Projects
Wilderness managers continue to monitor conditions and visitor use to ensure that Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) Standards are not being exceeded, as required by law. This monitoring is done through campsite inventory, visitor permits, water quality monitoring, range condition and trend, and other methods. As a result of past monitoring, it has been determined that visitor use exceeds capacity on some popular trails and in some areas during some times of the year. This primarily occurs on trails leading into the Lakes Basin area and in the Lakes Basin on weekends and holidays in July and August. Managers will now collect information on biophysical resources to determine if this level of use is causing a degradation of the biophysical resources beyond established limits.
During the summer and early fall, volunteers and wilderness rangers will continue to obliterate and revegetate abandoned trails and illegal campsites in the Lakes Basin Management Area and in other areas of the wilderness. The project will correct drainage problems, make illegal campsites unusable, fill eroded areas with soil and re-plant native grasses, shrubs, and trees.
You may observe temporary signs or possibly a rope barrier around some sites. Please stay out of these areas and give them time to recover.