North Fork Malheur Wild & Scenic River

Area Status: Open

This North Fork of the Malheur River was one of forty rivers originally designated in the Omnibus Oregon Wild and Scenic River Act of 1988. Residing completely on National Forest System lands, the entire wild and scenic river boundary encompasses 7,034 acres with 22.9 miles of river. Being recognized for its outstanding remarkable values of scenery, fisheries, geology, and wildlife habitat, the river corridor is a diverse display of an upper "headwaters" riparian ecosystem. An ecosystem which originates in a mixed conifer forest, flows through ponderosa pine forests, and exits into a sagebrush/juniper desert. The upper end of the river is generally characterized by a rather broad valley carved by glacial activity. Lodgepole forests sprinkled with native wet meadows dominate, as the river slowly flows in this gentler upper valley. Views out from the river are impressive, with feelings of warmth and openness.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Please if you Pack it in/Pack it out- anything you bring with you into the forest, please take home with you. This includes packing out all trash yours and others. Examples: cigarette butts, cans, bottles, and food. Please follow local and state health guidelines.
Usage: Light
Closest Towns: Prairie City, OR

General Information


From Prairie City, OR., turn onto South Main Street.  Follow South Main Street to the junction with Bridge Street.  Turn left onto Bridge Street, follow past the cemetary.  The road then becomes County Road 62.  follow County Road 62 approximately 7 miles to the junction with Forest Road 13.  Follow Forest Road 13 approximately 7 miles.  The headwaters are located on the left of Forest Road 13. Access to the northern portion of the river is excellent, however access to areas south of Crane Crossing are limited to hiking and riding stock.


River and Stream Fishing

Fisheries habitat along the river is excellent with native stocks of bull trout (threatened) and must be released if caught, and Rainbow trout. The combination of exceptional water quality, minimal historic and current activities, and excellent habitat has retained these native stocks.  For information on fishing regulations and guidelines please visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Viewing Scenery

As the river approaches Crane Crossing (named for a ford near Crane Creek), the corridor becomes more rugged and narrow. Larger, old growth ponderosa pine and steep canyon walls begin to define the corridor, with the walls in many locations rising from 250 to 750 feet. The canyon geology also becomes quite evident for the last 9 miles. A parade of various rock outcrops, talus slopes, and cliffs created by erosion as the river cut through the many layers of volcanic material, is on display. These features are all part of the Strawberry formation which was deposited between 12 and 15 millions years ago. Most recreationists seek the North Fork for its abundance of scenic beauty, relaxation, fishing oppotunities, and remoteness. There are two small camping facilities along the river. One is at the North Fork Malheur Campground and offers tent/trailer camping , and the second is at Crane Crossing. Access to Crane Crossing is more difficult, with trailer and RV use not recommended. Both sites are primitive with only camp spurs, tables, toilets and firerings. There is no potable water. South of the North Fork Campground is the trailhead for the North Fork Malheur Trail (#381). This trail is 12.4 miles long and extends to the end of the Forest boundary as well as Wild and Scenic River boundary. Access to the southern end of the trail is very poor, and hikes originating and ending at the northern North Fork Trailhead are recommended.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities