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A brief history of The Badlands WSA near Bend, Oregon

The Badlands Wilderness Study Area, a brief history
By Marilyn Miller, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club
February 7, 2002

In the high desert country of Central Oregon is an area referred to as the Badlands. The Badlands, named in the 1920's because of its harsh terrain is a surprisingly undisturbed area tucked in between Bend and Horse Ridge. This is a place you need to move slowly, be patient and let the area reveal its many secrets. The elevation ranges from 3,376 feet to 3,800 feet, making this a close, year-round place to visit. It is located in Deschutes and Crook Counties, approximately 10 miles east of Bend City limits and about 150 miles southeast of Portland. The nearest highway is U.S. Highway 20, which forms the southern and southwestern boundary of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

The WSA contains 32,221 acres of BLM land and there is a 40-acre in-holding of private land near the northeastern boundary. Adjacent land is mostly public, except for some private land to the north and the south. The Badlands area was designated as a WSA on November 14, 1980. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has endorsed a wilderness designation for the area. On August 3, 1999 Senator Ron Wyden wrote to President Bill Clinton and urged him to consider the Badlands for wilderness or other special protection. According to Sandy Lonsdale, there are approximately 290 million acres of public land managed by the BLM across the United States and less than one percent of the juniper/grassland ecosystem is protected in any way. Conservationists view the Badlands as a unique opportunity to restore a native high desert ecosystem in a quickly urbanizing area where the demand for wilderness, recreation and open space is increasing.

The Badlands is the kind of wilderness that challenges you to use self-restraint. In wilderness you are asked to use less power in your relation to nature, you are encouraged to walk instead of ride an OHV, or ski instead of snowmobile. A wilderness designation would prohibit vehicles in the area. Off-Highway vehicle enthusiasts who also enjoy the Badlands disagree with designating this a wilderness area. However, nearly all of the nearby Millican Valley and Fort Rock is open to OHVs. The Badlands should be off limits to OHVs; and the few dirt ways that exist there would soon grow over with natural vegetation.

There is a wide diversity of basalt flow formations within the study area. Beautiful, twisted, Western Juniper trees cover much of the area with an understory composed of bitterbrush and bunchgrass. There is big sage, two varieties of rabbit brush, Idaho fescue, squirrel tail, needle grass, and phlox. Reynolds pond lies in the northwest portion of the WSA and is the only surface water. Water levels in the pond are dependent on flows in the canal and consequently can fluctuate widely. When full, Reynolds Pond covers eight surface acres and is a nice addition to the WSA. The Badlands Rock, the most impressive natural feature in the wilderness study area makes a wonderful day hike. The towering rock formation is the largest of the "pressure ridges" that bulge out of the ground in about a dozen places in the Badlands. There is also "Inflated Lava", which is a lava formed less than a million years ago, that show distinctive landforms that have resulted from inflation, or swelling, of lobes and sheets of initially thin lava flows. The process of its formation was not understood or described until recently (Holcomb 1981, and Chitwood 1987). An excellent example of inflated lava forms can be seen in the WSA.

Dry Canyon is on the East Side of the WSA. The narrow seam in the desert blocks out the sights and sounds of the rest of the area. Here is a place one can embrace nature. Tall clumps of Great Basin ryegrass sprouts in the middle of the canyon and in the shadows on the rock walls you can make out primitive Indian pictographs. One drawing in the middle is clearly a figure of a man, while most of the others are left to your interpretation and imagination. Under one overhang was a rock wall covered with a series of painted lines, as if a Native American had kept score of his hunting success. And, as if his luck ran out, there are 13 of the lines painted on the wall. There is also another canyon, Little Canyon, to explore. The Badlands WSA has outstanding opportunities for solitude due to its large size and compact shape. The rugged terrain greatly enhances this opportunity.

The Badlands today is heavily used by wildlife, including mule deer who winter in the sheltered sections. The light snow that covered the area last week showed that the Badlands also is home to coyotes, jackrabbits and many other smaller creatures. Craig, my husband, and I once counted over thirty-five species of birds in one day hiking around the area. Canada Geese can be seen flying over during all four seasons. Aldo Leopold referred to their honking as "magnificent goose music". One of the winter birds you will find is the Townsend's Solitaire. This is one of the few birds that will sing in the winter. This bird will claim a small area with a few Juniper Trees as his own, and then will spend his time defending that area. The Juniper berries make up the majority of his diet. Juniper trees, along with their berries, provide food and shelter to over sixty species of birds and mammals in the western states. This is an area that provides food, shelter and a place to live year round for many mammals and birds.

The Badlands is a beautiful area with unusual geologic formations. There are low rolling hills, black Holocene escarpments. This is truly a desert wilderness and should have the protection of such. This is a place to come equipped with a camera, a pair of binoculars and a backpack. It is really fun to come out here in the late afternoon with your sleeping bag, a special friend, and watch the sun go down. Then you can lie there and listen to the coyotes howl during the night.

February 7, 2002 Marilyn Miller, The Sierra Club





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BLM partners with Friends of the Badlands
Wilderness trail closures by BLM's Friends of the badlands
Oregon Natural Desert Association - ONDA

Photos of a Wilderness inventory near Juntura, in eastern Oregon
ONDA survey of Owyhee Canyon
Owyhee Canyon Wilderness study area
Oregon's Owyhee River inventory delivered to BLM
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BLM partners with "Friends of the Badlands" to provide Stewardship for Badlands WSA
Badlands wilderness trail closures
Bend Oregon Badlands WSA hiking map available from BLM
Hunters who use ATVs are hurting Oregon's elk population
BLM's final UDRMP opens Bend's Badlands to Geocaching
BLM's final UDRMP closes Bend's Badlands WSA to motorized vehicle use
Wilderness workshop for USDA Forest Service held by University of Idaho
BLM's UDRMP plans for Badlands deal with exploding public use
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Deschutes County Commissioners fail to support Badlands Wilderness!
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Deschutes County Commissioner DeWolf supports Badlands Wilderness
OpEd - Dirt road through The Badlands must close
Photos of Road 8 damage sent to Commissioners
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The Badlands have unique interest for the hiker
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
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Protest of exclusion of Geocaching in Badlands WSA in BLM's UDRMP
BLM's UDRMP puts Bend's Badlands off limits to Geocaching
Deschutes County Commissioners hearing on Badlands Wilderness support
OHV use restricted in Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Tread Lightly OHV USFS tip of the month
OHVs to be held to designated trails by USDA Forest Service!
New pole shows Badlands Wilderness favored by voters
BLM posts Reward for information on Juniper rustlers
BLM weighing public input on management plan
Oregon's Badlands hit by old growth Juniper rustlers  Photos
Congressman Greg Walden to visit The Badlands
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by COTA
OpEd - Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions
Sierra Club's Juniper Group supports Badlands Wilderness
OHV regulation discussed at BLM meeting in Bend, Oregon
OpEd - Badlands part of BLM's recreation management area
OpEd - We need the Badlands Wilderness
OpEd - Off-roaders have no reason to fear Badlands Wilderness designation
Speak for the Badlands at Town Hall Meeting
Hiking poles are becoming essential gear
Vandals destroy ancient pictographs in the Badlands
Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status
The Badlands unique geologic forms explained by Chitwood  pdf
The Badlands, a brief history
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago

USFS Five Buttes Healthy Forest fire reduction program in Central Oregon
Bob McGown, AAC Section Chair, builds a telescope pad at Pine Mountain Observatory
Becoming an Outdoors Woman classes in LaPine, Oregon with the ODFW
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A tour of the aftermath of the B & B forest fire with the Sierra Club
Adopt-a-Road with TraditionalMountaineering
The Bend Bicycle Festival 2004
Wolves introduced to the High Desert Museum
Twenty old growth Juniper stolen from The Badlands WSA   More information
A sustainable way to use feathers to adorn my lady
ODFW clinic - Becoming an Outdoors Woman
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Trail Crew builds a log bridge over Spring Creek
Sierra Club holds a Christmas party
Tour fire ravaged Davis Lake
IMBA helps COTA build trails
South Sister climbers trail relocated
President Bush hopes no child will be left behind
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Department of Inferior dumps wilderness protection
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The ODFW juvenile steelhead survey in the stream
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ONDA's Owyhee wilderness inventory camp near Rome, Oregon
Riverfest river cleanup in Bend Oregon
USFS Mud Bog poster
A Pay to Play bust
President Bush reassures us that SUVs do not damage the environment!
President Bush overlooking the environment
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Fee Demo demonstration in Central Oregon