Pueblo Mountain Valleys

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Steens Mountain

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Fields Oasis

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Alvord Desert and Alvord Hot Springs

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Catlow Valley

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The remote mountains of southeast Oregon are biologically unique and are of interest to the visiting birder.

Camping is available. Check in Fields for current information.

Two hikes in the Pueblo Mountains south of Fields, Oregon are detailed below.


Habitat and Birds

Lined with riparian vegetation, the Pueblo Mountains Valleys can harbor just about any migrant in the spring and fall. Warbling Vireos, Bullock’s Orioles, and Western Wood-Pewees are common summer residents.

Below you will find notes on two terrific hikes contributed by Mike Denny. Please heed the warnings about water, weather, and snakes.

Alert#1: Take extra water and socks. Wear boots and a wide brim hat and take a camera! This is a three hour hike one way.

Alert#2: The entire lower canyon below the wall is well populated with Western Rattlesnakes, please use common sense around these reptiles and once you have detected one leave it alone and walk away from it! Do not attempt to kill these snakes as they are an important part of this areas ecology. These snakes average 28 inches in this canyon and are to be expected anywhere after the onset of warm weather. Again, this is a six hour round-trip minimum!

This is a summer-mid fall ( mid-May to mid-October) hike only. This basin is in between Pueblo Mountain (8725′) and the western spine of the Pueblo Range. It is a high spectacular basin that can be accessed from two points.

Hike #1 – Pueblo Mountains-Ten Cent Meadows/Van Horn Basin via Little Cottonwood Creek

From Fields drive south 8.2 miles to Cottonwood Creek here (42.164989, -118.604076), cross the creek on Highway 205 and turn right onto the dirt track, go slow so as not to scrape the bottom of your rig and to also avoid running over any of the many reptiles in this desert area. Select one of the dispersed camp sites along Cottonwood Creek. This entire mountain range is under BLM management and large portions of these mountain areas are Wilderness Study Areas. Once you are settled be prepared to listen to Common Poorwills, Western Screech-Owls, coyotes and the rushing cold water stream beside you.

Leave early and walk upstream along Cottonwood Creek, please stay along the north side of the canyon as you go. You will come to a natural stone wall after about 1.5 hours of walking. Watch not only for birds, but agates, geodes and many species of flowering plants. Once you are up and over the wall (which can be hiked up and over) you are a little over half way to the Van Horn Basin/Ten Cent Meadow. The birds of this area are numerous during spring to early fall. We have seen Bushtits, Mountain Chickadee, Short-eared Owls, Green-tailed Towhees, Rock Wren, Golden Eagle, Lazuli Bunting, Cooper’s Hawk, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, to name a few. Watch the flycatchers on your way up as they include Dusky, Western, Western Wood-Pewee, and Gray Flycatchers. Also watch for eastern vagrants such as Common Grackle, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and many others.

Follow Cottonwood Creek as it hooks to the south and fractals into many small branches. You have reached this beautiful basin and all of its birds. You are very high 6980′ and there are no snakes here. The dominate trees are mountain mahogany, some aspen, and bitter brush. There are Cassin’s Finches, Red Crossbill, Hermit Thrush and, at times, gray-headed Dark-eyed Juncos. This high mountain basin is intoxicating and time flies up there.

Do not get caught in the dark on your hike down and out of this basin. Leave plenty of time for your hike out.

Hike #2 – Pueblo Mountains-Van Horn Basin/Ten Cent Meadows via Van Horn Creek

Alert: There are Western Rattlesnakes in the lower elevations of this canyon during warm weather so be alert as you hike. Once again this is a fair weather hike only. See hike 1 above, the same warnings apply here.

This is the rough way in and the trail is rudimentary at best.

Park along Van Horn Creek here (42.045136, -118.619140). Once again stay to the north side of the creek and well up and away from the creek. This is a 2.5 hour hike into the Van Horn Basin. Watch for Indigo Buntings and other unexpected species. This is a steeper climb and not the walk up that Cottonwood Creek is. You will be surrounded by stunning vistas and views on this route.

Pueblo Mountain Valleys