This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act which allows for protection of some of the nation's most stunning and desolate landscapes. What better way to celebrate the wildlands of Central and Eastern Oregon by getting out and experiencing the diverse environments and vistas. Two lesser known areas, the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Greater Hart-Sheldon region are less than a day's drive away from Bend. Both can be navigated with the help of the Oregon Desert Trail Guide, an 800-mile route broken into four general regions, and further divided into 20-40 mile segments, available from Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Comprising more than 2.1 million acres of wildlands and hundreds of miles of Wild & Scenic rivers, The Canyonlands are home to the world's largest herd of California bighorn sheep as well as pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, seven species of bats, sage-grouse, songbirds, redband trout, longnose snakes, and pygmy rabbits. Owyhee has a number of camping sites, from easily accessible to remote. The top four are Anderson Crossing, Slolum Creek Campground in Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek Campground and Three Forks. Want to get really remote? If you're an experienced backpacker and swimmer, try bivouacking to the West Little Owyhee River, which, at its farthest reaches, is about 24 hours away by a combination of four-wheel, horseback and foot from anything resembling civilization. And, at the intersection of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, it's in a different time zone than the rest of the state.
Greater Hart-Sheldon Region
Hart-Sheldon is a massive intact sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, which provides important habitat to more than 350 species of wildlife, including: mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, waterfowl, shorebirds, pikas, pygmy rabbits, and one of the highest densities of greater sage-grouse in the United States. Oregon's volcanic past is evident here too, as geothermal hot springs are found throughout the area, some safe to soak in. In addition to plentiful wildlife and breathtaking open spaces filled with wildflowers, this region is also home to Native American rock art, and remnants of pioneer homesteads.