About the Forest

Ochoco National Forest

Steins PillarLocated near the geographic center of Oregon, the Ochoco National Forest consists of 845,498 acres of land divided into three ranger districts: the Lookout Mountain Ranger District, the Paulina Ranger District, and the Snow Mountain Ranger District (currently administered by Malheur National Forest). The Forest is headquartered in Prineville, Oregon. 

The Forest administers land in the Maury and Ochoco Mountains, which are southward extensions of the Blue Mountains physiographic province. Most of the Forest is drained by the Crooked and Deschutes Rivers. Part of the north slope of the Ochoco Mountains drains into the John Day River.

Vegetative types found on the Forest are diverse. Lower elevations that receive less than 10 inches of precipitation annually are vegetated with juniper, sagebrush, and grasses. Higher up, stands of ponderosa pine dominate southern and western aspects and compose the largest single forest type found on the Forest. Mixed conifer stands, made up of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, white fir, and western larch, grow at higher elevations on the cooler northern and eastern aspects. Scattered stands of lodgepole pine cover less than one percent of the Forest.

There are more than 375 different species of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals known or expected to inhabit the Forest; 15 species of game fish, and numerous nongame fish species are in the area's reservoirs, lakes, and streams. Deer, elk, and antelope are big game animals hunted on the Forest. Anadromous (steelhead) fish spawning occurs in some streams.

Habitat is know or expected to exist for other species classified by state and federal wildlife agencies as endangered, threatened, or sensitive, such as the peregrine falcon, Swainson's hawk, bald eagle, western sage grouse, greater sandhill crane, long-billed curlew, common loon, Malheur spotted sculpin, wolverine, and redband trout. 

The Forest also contains three Congressionally-designated wildernesses, the North Fork Crooked Wild and Scenic River, and portions of Wildcat Caldera and other geological remnant rock formations.


Click HERE to visit the Rager Time Capsule page and learn the history of Rager Ranger Station 


Crooked River National Grassland

The Crooked River National Grassland is located in central Oregon, entirely within Jefferson County. Of 173, 629 acres encompassed by the Grassland boundary, 111,379 acres are under Forest Service administration. Other lands are privately owned or under the administration of the BLM, State of Oregon, or Jefferson County.

The Grassland is traversed from north to south by State Highways 26 and 97. West of Highway 97, the country is a high plateau interrupted by steep canyons of the Deschutes River and its tributaries. East of Highway 97, the terrain is rolling hills and buttes. Elevations range from 2,241 feet at Madras to 5,108 feet atop Gray Butte. Steep canyons border the major drainages, including the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers, and Squaw and Willow Creeks.

The Grassland lies within two subbasins of the Deschutes River drainage system: the Middle Deschutes River and the Lower Crooked River.

It is believed that the Grassland was originally vegetated with bluebunch wheatgrass and Idaho fescue, and some sagebrush, rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, and juniper. Because much of the area was cultivated and the native vegetation removed during the homesteading era, it is difficult to determine the original vegetation patterns.

The climate of the Grassland is typical for central Oregon. Annual precipitation averages 10.5 inches, but higher elevations may receive 19 inches or more per year. High intensity rain storms are likely to occur during spring and summer months. The growing season averages 100 days. Temperatures are moderate throughout the year and may fluctuate greatly between day and night. Frost may occur any day of the year.

The area was first homesteaded in the 1880s and eventually 700 homesteads were established. But by the 1930s, inadequate rainfall and poor economic conditions had caused the farms to fail and the homesteaders to abandon their land. By 1935, federal land banks and private mortgage banks had taken over 35 percent of the homesteads in foreclosures. The federal government then began to buy the land back from the remaining homesteaders under the authority of the Resettlement Administration and Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act.

Management of the land was transferred from the Soil Conservation Service to the Forest Service in 1954. Originally known as the Central Oregon Land Utilization Project, the name was changed to the Crooked River National Grassland in 1960. Management direction states that "the National Grassland shall be administered under sound and progressive principles of land conservation and multiple use..." (36 CFR 213).

During the 1930s and early 1940s, many acres were seeded to provide ground cover and improve the bare ground situation that had resulted from plowing the land and attempting to raise grain. Treated lands (approximately 63,000 acres) were planted with either crested wheatgrass or bearded wheatgrass. The native bluebunch wheatgrass proved impossible to restore. In the 1960s, many acres were reseeded and sprayed with herbicides to control shrubs. In the 1970s, reseeding was phased out and fire was introduced as a management tool. This management method continues today.

The Crooked River National Grassland is administered as a ranger district of the Ochoco National Forest and is the only national grassland in the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region. There are 20 national grasslands nationwide.

The Grassland is managed to promote the development of grassland agriculture and sustained yield management of the forage, fish and wildlife, timber, water, and recreation resources and to demonstrate sound and practical principles of land use. Since the beginning of the land utilization projects of the 1930s, improving range management and the forage resource has been a major goal.  


Celebrating 50 Years, 1954-2004 (newsletter).