Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

37. Black Canyon Headwaters

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. p. 167.

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What to Expect: A very steep beginning to a large high-moun- tain plateau

Distance: 8 miles round trip

Elevation Range: 3,600-4,868 feet

Drinking Water: No

Best Times: Summer, fall

USGS 7.5' Maps: Brownlee Dam, McLain Gulch, Oxbow

Oregon Map Starting Point: Pine

From the OR 86 turnoff (either one), go to downtown Pine. In Pine you are on Pine Town Lane. Continue 1 mile east-southeast where road turns sharply to north-northeast for 0.1 mile (crossing Pine Creek) before turning east. In 2 miles (you're on Gulick Road) the pavement ends and the road turns southeasterly for 3 miles. It then heads due east. In 1.2 miles cross under a big powerline, again in another 1 mile, again in 0.1 mile, and again in 0.8 mile.

(Notice the several livestock exclosures along the route. Different people see different things. The rancher obviously is proud of all the forage he's prevented from going to waste outside the exclosures. Conservationists are appalled.)

The road deteriorates as it nears the rim above Brownlee Dam. You may want to stop somewhere along the rim (great dry car camp) and walk the remainder. If you have four-wheel drive, you can make the "trailhead" north 2 miles after going under the powerline for the last time. Otherwise, it is a pleasant enough walk.

The unmarked "trailhead" (we'll eventually find those cairns) is where the road obviously crosses from one drainage to another. Park. Take the unmapped four-wheel-drive track east 0.4 mile up and over the ridge and down and across the little valley. Follow the east-west fence that demarcates private land to the fence corner. Continue north on a well-defined cattle trail along the fence. After crossing a small creek channel, hike up the very steep ridge directly north. Follow this ridge, which is the west side of Black Canyon. You'll eventually see infrequent and short cairns, useful for little more than confirming you are on your correct northward course. The steep ridge soon gets gentle at the 4404 and 4408 elevations on the USGS 7.5' quad map, and near the radio repeater at 4868T (you're now 2.5 miles from the fence corner). The trail continues northeast along the edge of the plateau 1.1 miles downward toward Sheep Mountain (Oxbow quad).

Views are of the Wallowa Mountains to the northwest, Homestead Ridge to the north, and the Seven Devils to the northeast. You can camp on top of the plateau or in some trees and explore more later. This can also be done as a long day hike.

Return the way you came.