Nine miles east of Prineville on Hwy 26 and 2.9 miles east of the Ochoco Reservoir Dam (see directions above), is Mill Creek Road. This road is flanked by private property on all sides but transitions into the Ochoco National Forest and is good for forest birds. This road is 10 miles long and ends at Wildcat Campground. If you travel the whole length of this road, you can’t miss Stein’s Pillar. This rock formation is one of the most spectacular in Central Oregon.
Good side roads off Mill Creek (not recommended for winter travel):
Old Dry Creek Road – Driving north on Mill Cr., the pavement will end. At this point, you can turn left on Old Dry Creek Road (closed to motor vehicles in winter). From here, explore FR 3370, 3380, and FR 100 (check out Brennan Palisades) for forest species.
Stein’s Pillar Road – From the end of the pavement on Mill Creek Road, go north 1.6 miles and turn right on the Stein’s Pillar Trailhead Road. The birding is good all the way to the top (2 mi.).
FR 33 Loop – A good loop can be made if, instead of going into Wildcat Campground, you continue on the main road into the mountains (See McKay Creek Loops). This is Forest Road 33 and will take you back to Prineville after a productive 20-mile drive.
Habitat and Birds
The road follows Mill Creek as it comes out of the Ochoco Mountains. Farmland straddles the river for several miles and junipers can by found to the west. The pavement ends after a few miles but the dirt road is well maintained. Bushtits and Ash-throated Flycatchers like the junipers near the beginning of this road. Pygmy Nuthatches and Western Bluebirds prefer the middle sections. White-headed Woodpecker, Red Crossbill, Winter Wren, and Cassin’s Finch are common. Check the bridges for American Dipper. Northern Pygmy-Owl can often be found with a little “tooting”. This is one of the best places in the county to find Calliope Hummingbird. If owling is your thing, the Stein’s Pillar TH is very good for Flammulated and Saw-whet Owls (at night, of course). 1.1 miles up Lemon Creek is also good.