Central Oregon is so beautiful, that when looking for places to explore, I often forget to look beyond my back door. While watching reruns of OPB's Field Guide (you have your Friday night ritual, I have mine), I was reminded of two important and remarkably lovely spots in the Northeast. It's a six plus hour drive to get there, but well worth the trip.
Grande Ronde Overlook Wildflower Institute
The intent behind this stunning 220-acre reserve near La Grande is to preserve and restore the historic plant community on site, dating back 200 years. Just fewer than 200 native plant species are present here, many of which are wildflowers, and among those a number of orchid species, guaranteeing a show from late March to mid-August. The Institute also strives to provide ecological information and hosts tours for a number of regional institutions, schools, and universities. Check out the website: growiser.net for more information, including species list, directions, and species in bloom by month.
Zumwalt Prairie Preserve
Just an hour down the road from the Grande Ronde preserve is the Nature Conservancy's 33,000-acre love letter to America's disappearing grasslands. This time of year, in addition to bunch grasses, expect to see lupine, balslam-root, and camas. This site is rich with wildlife as well as wildflowers, raptors and song birds are common, as are butterflies, elk, black bear, coyotes, and cougar. The Nature Conservancy's website has all the details you need to get there: nature.org