March 24, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

In the morning we woke up to a reply from the Provan dealer in Redmond saying to just swing by at our convenience and they could replace the failed shower valve. We decided to go ahead with our tour of the wildlife refuge and go to Redmond tomorrow to take care of the problem. Tonight we will be taking a $2 shower.

The Malheur Wildlife refuge is run by the Fish and Wildlife Service and contains two large shallow lakes and the remnants of a turn of the 20th century irrigation sytem that had destroyed a large natural wetland. The FWS is trying to use the irrigation system to restore the wetlands over time. It is quite large running from north of Malheur lake to the base of the Steens Mountains near Frenchglen, Oregon over 187,000 acres.

After a quick stop at the nice visitors center and museum we decided to drive the patrol road which is about 25 miles of gravel through the central “wetlands” of the refuge. This time of year the migratory waterfowl are passing through including Snow Geese and Swans sometimes by the thousands.

On the easy gravel road we did not see too many sightings of birds, mostly Canadian Geese, and one flock of snow birds. We also saw a small herd of mule deer. Ron was excited to see a grouse but was not fast enough to get a picture.

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When we got to the southern end of the patrol road near French Glen we decided to drive around the base of the Steens Mountain. Steens Mountain is one of our favorite places in Oregon. It is an upthrust mountain that is 35 miles long and rises 6000 feet out of the desert to an elevation just a little shy of 10000 feet. On the west side of the mountains is typical Oregon sagebrush desert. On the east side in the rainshadow of Steens Mt. is the Alvord desert a 12 by 7 mile dry lake bed. There are roads to the top of Steen Mountain that are accessible in the summer and we decided that we would be returnng later in the year to climb the mountain in Scout.

At the end of the day Ton wanted to drive into the refuge for a beauty shot of the refuge sign, and right before the headquarters in a farmers field, were all of the snow geese we had spent the day looking for.

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