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Painted Hills

Steens: A Birder’s Paradise

Written by Oregon Media

Steens: A Birder’s Paradise

The flyway overhead will blow your mind

The Grand Central Station of migratory birds, the abundant wetland at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is paradise for those interested in ornithology. Spring and fall are great times to visit if you want to catch the incredible diversity of species that descend on the Northern Great Basin as part of their epic annual migration. The refuge—a crucial stop along the Pacific Flyway—offers nesting and breeding habitat for hundreds of migratory birds and other wildlife. Visitors will want to bring binoculars and a good camera lens to the 187,757-acre, federally protected wildlife habitat. Many of the species seen here are highlighted as priority species in national bird conservation plans. In addition to unparalleled bird watching, educational opportunities, wildlife viewing, hiking, regulated fishing and hunting await anyone on their own migration path to this region.

Explore Steens

Where arid landscapes paint a high desert picture

The largest fault-block mountain in the Northern Great Basin, Steens Mountain was formed when immense geologic forces pushed the east edge of Steens Mountain up along the edge of the Alvord Desert. Today, the mountain range rises more than a mile above the east-facing landscape, affording visitors dramatic views from the summit. A series of four gorges provide endless opportunities for exploration. Hike the twenty-eight-mile Steens Mountain Gorges Loop, which treats hikers to waterfalls and leads to two massive, U-shaped gorges (Blitzen and Big Indian) that were carved during the last ice age. At lower elevations, abundant wildlife draws hunters and anglers who take to stocked lakes and streams ripe with red-band trout. Stay overnight at the Frenchglen Hotel, Hotel Diamond or Steens Mountain Wilderness Resort, or camp at Page Springs Campground.


Wildhorse Lake on Steens Mountain WILDHORSE LAKE

The water is cold and cobalt blue at Wildhorse Lake, which is in a glacial canyon visible from Steens’ summit. Descend to the lake for a post-summit dip.


Summer in the Steens brings a canvas covered in a profusion of color—all the more brilliant because of its contrast against jagged volcanic rock. From riparian and alpine meadows to woodlands, wildflower displays abound in the Steens, particularly in July.

Steens info