My brother-in-law Jim, his pointer puppy Artie and I arrived at the Badlands Rock Trailhead around 8:30 am on a Tuesday morning. The Oregon Badlands is about 30 minutes east of Bend in Deschutes and Crook counties. The high desert area is known for castle-like volcanic rock formations, harsh terrain, ancient Juniper trees, sagebrush, and extensive arid land.
The Western Juniper is a prominent feature across the badlands and Oregon high desert. The durable juniper is known to live more than 1600 years. Its scraggly bark and gnarly branches are quite impressive. I suspect the specimen above is well over 200 years old. Ironically, the tree is seen by many scientists and land managers as invasive. It hogs scarce water resources (12 – 14 inches, or 30 – 35 cm, of rain annually in the badlands), and crowds out native shrubs, grasses and flowers – all of which provide critical wildlife habitat.
Before settlement of the west in the 1800s, the juniper occupied only 10% the territory it does today. Up until then, naturally occurring fires kept the tree contained. But settlers and ranchers have since tended to quickly suppress fires giving the young junipers opportunity to spread. We did notice along the trail evidence of past fire events.
Another interesting feature of the badlands is the volcanic rock formations created by ancient inflated lava flows. Jim, Artie and I climbed the 75 ft (23 m) tall Badland Rock outcropping to get an impressive 360 degree view of Central Oregon. The Badlands soil is composed of sand from eroded volcanic rock and ash from the Mt. Mazama eruption (known today as Crater Lake) some 7,700 years ago.
Finally, the high desert landscape is complemented with visual interest from big sagebrush, rabbitbrush, Idaho fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. Artie loved bouncing around the thickets of sagebrush and bunchgrasses, sometimes flushing a flight of Mourning doves. As it was early August, the desert wildflowers were waning, but there was still numerous pink dwarf monkeyflower, Oregon sunshine and sulfur buckwheat to be found. I particularly found numerous sulfur buckwheat subjects for photography.
Below is Artie scoping out scenes from the Badland Rock Trail. You can see big sagebrush, rabbitbrush, bunchgrass and junipers mentioned above.
Look for more posts featuring this amazing landscape! For the best viewing experience, click on an image to view a high resolution version from my portfolio site.