Tag Archives: Buckhorn_Springs

The always present Presence

I realize with prayer that I truly do may myself available to the presence of God, to His holiness.  This awareness, at least briefly, lifts  me beyond thoughts and words and actions. it is a delightful place to be, knowing also that God delights in each of us, His children.

Looking into the Imnaha river canyon, near Buckhorn Springs, OR

Saddle Creek, Hells Canyon

The Zumwalt Prairie and the Cat’s Back

“The Zumwalt Prairie seemed a polycultural sea of greens–springtime mint greens, forest greens, shamrock greens.  They were every hue and shine–pale, bright, dull, and verdant–and always changing from the height of the sun in the sky or the volume and cover of the clouds. The wind changed the colors as did morning and evening dew.  Morning color was heightened, noontime was flat, and late afternoon shone gold-green and shadowy.”  Marcy Houle, The Prairie Keepers

This book provides a wonderful background for visiting both the Zumwalt and the Cat’s Back, two vast high grasslands the hold the silence and awe of Creation.

Rugged and Remote

Rugged and remote, the Zumwalt Prairie lies in the extreme northeast corner of Oregon. Rich diversity of plant and animal life, particularly hawks, make this an enchanting place.  Several hundred thousand acres of grassland grows on top of this basalt plateau, between 3500 and 6000 feet in elevation. Much of it has not be cultivated, so it remains a remarkable example of an ecosystem that existed before the white settlers arrived. Meg and I recently shared the trip with Marshal, our Chinese MBA student.  He remarked how much of the area reminded him of the high plateau country of Tibet.  We are blessed to be so close–instead of days of travel to reach similar diversity in Tibet, we only needed to drive a few hours from La Grande to enjoy the serene and sublime beauty of the Zumwalt.

View from Buckhorn Springs

Lower Imnaha river canyon
Zumwalt Barn

Zumwalt Prairie and Buckhorn Springs

Were I to create my own “Eden,” I would model it after the Zumwalt Prairie.  Located in Wallowa County in the extreme northeast corner of Oregon, it is an incredible grassland of 330,00 acres atop a basalt plateau.  This high altitude prairie ranges from 3,500 to 5,000 feet and lies along the western edge of Hells Canyon. Cattle ranching here has respected the needs of land as the excellent book, “The Prairie Keepers,” describes. The high elevation, long, harsh winters, and poor soils made farming difficult.  Thus, much the original habitat remains for plants and animals.  Hawks thrive here. The Nature Conservancy also manages a considerable amount of land here as well.

Meg and I love to visit in the late spring/early summer.  The solitude, the quiet, the beauty of canyons, hills, and green grass decorated in wildflowers wrap around us, and resharpen our senses.  We follow the road as far as Buckhorn Springs, a majesty bench that overlooks the drainages of the Imnaha river before it flows into the Snake river.  The Zumwalt roads takes off between the towns of Enterprise and Joseph.