the ridgeline, the occasional dry, open ridge or wet
meadow is surrounded by stands of lodgepole pine and
subalpine fir, framing distant views to the expanses of
Bear Valley to the south or the John Day Valley to the
north. Snow fields cling on through mid summer, their
melt waters flowing down through pristine drainages
where waist high columbines and lush thickets of red
alder cast dappled shade on a creek more easily heard
than seen. All types of wildlife call the Wilderness
their home, offering good chances of seeing a red tail
hawk soar overhead, hearing the bugle of a bull elk echo
across the valley, or glimpsing brown trout jump in the
cool mountain air. While the Strawberry Mountain
Wilderness has an abundance of visual delights, many
other special and beautiful areas exist around each of
the Ranger Districts of the Forest.
The Blue Mountain Ranger District has the Vinegar
Hill/Indian Rock Scenic Area, a place where natural
features and processes have combined to produce diverse
landscape patterns. Upland meadows are divided by clumps
and ribbons of fir, and populated with outcrops of
basalt and granite. Large expanses of burned forest
stand with silver and black stems, needles and limbs
consumed in one of the many wildfires run through this
area. Below them, green shoots signify new life and the
cyclical process of life and death in the forest. Much
of the rain and snow in the Scenic Area drains to the
Middle Fork of the John River. Designated as a State
Wild and Scenic River, the Middle Fork flows through
grassy meadows and stands of pine, below rimrocks and
the leap of returning steelhead. In the heart of the
District, Magone Lake Recreation Area offers camping,
fishing and boating enclosed by majestic "pumpkin"
pines, ponderosas with their deep orange bark and
characteristic black furrows.
Magone Lake, in the Malheur National Forest,
about 26 miles north of John Day, is one of Grant
County's most popular lakes. Angling for 8-to 15-inch
eastern brook and rainbow trout is consistently good.
The U.S. Forest Service rebuilt a 22-space campground, a
boat ramp, and covered picnic area near the lake a few
years ago. This area offers swimming, hiking, fishing,
geology viewing, and wildflower viewing.
Magone Lake covers about 50 acres and features both deep
holes (up to 100 feet) and shoals on the north side.
Some of the best fishing is in the weed beds that cover
portions of the northside shoals. A hiking trail circles
the lake so that people can fish easily from the shore.
A float tube or rubber raft is handy, especially for fly
fishing. Every year brook and rainbow trout are planted
and grow quickly. Three-pound brookies are caught
Magone Lake is open year-round, allowing for ice fishing
for those who ride snowmobiles into the lake. The ice
usually comes off by April. Access roads are usually
snow-free by late May or early June.
To get to Magone Lake from the west or northwest, drive
south on Highway 395 past Long Creek and turn left on
Forest Road 36. The road leads east to the lake. The
other road access, (26 miles north of John Day) is from
Hwy. 26 to County Road 18, then turn onto Forest Service
Road 36, which leads to the lake. A Malheur National
Forest map would be helpful and can be found at Forest
Service offices in John Day and Prairie City and at
sporting goods stores.
For more information about road conditions, or to
reserve the group campground (it accommodates about 20
people and has room for motor homes or fifth-wheels) or
the picnic shelter, call the Blue Mountain Ranger
District at (541) 575-3000. There is drinking water, and
each space features a picnic table, fire ring and
cooking grate. There is no electricity or garbage
Monument Rock Wilderness
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 20 and Forest Road No.
13 and 1670. 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
Table Mountain - The fire lookout tower on Table
Mountain is a good place to begin 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 an ancient dirt road to Bullrun
Rock's 150-foot cliffs. A fork of this trail winds close
to Monument Rock and continues 5 miles along a scenic
ridgecrest to Lone Rock. 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.
Starvation Rock - One of the more accessible and
popular hikes climbs past Starvation Rock, a large
basalt monolith, to Road 548 on the narrow ridge between
Sheep Rock and Lookout Mountain. Backpackers and
equestrians can use this path as a connector between the
Glacier-Monument and Strawberry Mountain trail systems,
which are less than 2 miles apart here.
Aldrich Mountains - Snow capped in winter and
catching the suns early morning rays, the Aldrich
Mountains loom over the John Day Valley like a row of
pyramids. This large roadless area has expansive open
ridgetops and dense timbered drainages where large
Douglas fir and ponderosa pine can be found. To the
south, Murderers Creek wanders through a flat valley,
past pine forest, scattered meadows and occasional ranch
buildings, then drops through the gorge around Shake
Table with its dramatic canyon walls and rimrocks.
Similarly, parts of Deer Creek and the South Fork of
Murderers Creek contribute to the scenic beauty of the
District, winding through narrow, constricted v-shaped
valleys with lush riparian shrubs and rocky outcrops, or
through open grassy meadows surrounded by large
ponderosa pine where horses - wild and domestic - graze
Prairie City Ranger District has areas with
dramatic scenery and sublime beauty. In the Monument
Rock Wilderness timbered slopes give way to open
ridgetops where, at your feet, hardy Indian paintbrush
compete for your attention with distant views of
forested mountains and sagebrush flats. Logan Valley,
with the south face of the Strawberry Mountains as a
backdrop, has changing scenes through the year. Carpets
of spring wildflowers, swaying summer grasses, and
autumnal aspens with orange-yellow leaves atop white
bark stems, have made this a special place for hundreds
of years. The North Fork of the Malheur River, a Federal
Wild and Scenic River, certainly lives up to this
description. Flowing through open meadows on the floor
of this steeply walled valley, some of the Forests
largest ponderosa pines reflect in the cool running
water. As the river flows southward, valley becomes
canyon, and outcrops of basalt and loose talus slopes
intersperse with dry open forest and sagebrush hills.
The distinct cry of an osprey may be heard over the
riffles of the water.
Whatever kind of scenery appeals to you, the Malheur
National Forest has something that will enable you to
leave here with a great photograph, a fond memory and a
desire to return.
For more info Call: Harney County Chamber Of