14. Buck Pasture (Warner Peak Unit, Bighorn Wilderness)
Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 119-120.
What to Expect: A stream and a wet meadow that hasn't been grazed since 1940 on a wildlife refuge that hasn't been grazed since 1993 in a landscape that has been grazed since the mid-nineteenth century
Distance: 3.2-mile loop
Elevation Range: 5,616-5,800 feet
Drinking Water: Yes
Best Times: Spring, summer, fall
USGS 7.5' Map: Campbell Lake
Oregon Map Starting Point: Plush
Drive north 1 mile and then northeasterly approximately 25 miles (following signs) to Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
Park at Refuge headquarters. From the westernmost bridge on the Plush- Frenchglen Road, hike westerly 0.4 mile to a sign saying "Willow Creek." Walk 0.8 mile south to an intersection with another way (bear west at a Y about half way). At the intersection, hike westerly for 0.4 mile to an official sign saying "Road Closed." Walk westerly a few hundred yards to a plank bridge across Willow Creek. Notice some rock weirs (big rocks wrapped in wire) that were placed in the creek to slow the stream, catch sediment, and such. A better solution, economically and ecologically, was to simply remove the livestock. Nature will heal itself.
Walk upstream on the east bank for about 100 yards. Notice the young grass growing in the very wide and shallow stream channel. Livestock were removed from the refuge in 1993. Before that, this stream had severe cutbanks and little vegetation. Continue your inspection upstream to a dramatic change in the creek character. At the former fence line, the creek channel deepens and narrows dramatically in the wet meadow. Buck Pasture has not been grazed for several decades. The exclosure fence was removed in 1994. Someday you won't be able to distinguish the recovering creek downstream from the recovered creek upstream. The Fish and Wildlife Service should re-erect four large corner posts to provide historical reference to where the fence was.
Return the way you came. When you can see the refuge headquarters, set out cross-country and walk down Rock Creek back to your vehicle.