Andy Kerr

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

Sheephead Mountains Wilderness (Proposed)

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 141-142.

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Many more people know of them than have been to them.

Location: Harney and Malheur Counties, 10 miles west of Burns Junction

Size: 401 square miles (257,120 acres)

Terrain: Mostly mountainous with some wide flats

Elevation Range: 3,920-6,294 feet

Managing Agencies: Burns and Vale Districts BLM

Agency Wilderness Status: 245,167-acre BLM wilderness study area; 139,447 acres recommended

Recreation Maps: South Half Burns District BLM; North Half Jordan Resource Area, Vale District BLM

The Sheepshead Mountains are mostly known to people who drive by them on their way elsewhere.

The area has diverse topography: steep-faced ridgelines, plateaus, rolling hills, broad and gentle fans, low basins, and playa lakebeds. The views are terrific, especially from the summits, including incomparable views of Steens Mountain.

Vegetation is predominantly big sagebrush, low sagebrush, and salt desert scrub communities. A total of seven juniper trees have been counted.

The Oregon Biodiversity Project has included the Sheepsheads in their Crooked Creek—Alvord Basin Conservation Opportunity Area: "[T]he areas around the Sheepshead Mountains contain extensive areas of playa, salt desert scrub, and sand dune habitats. They provide habitat for several at-risk endemic fish species and a variety of reptiles, small mammals and insects." [1]

The area is crucial winter range for pronghorn and great habitat for bighorn sheep. It is also northern kit fox habitat.

The Mickey Basin has an abundance of springs, seeps, and wet meadows and contains species not found over most of the rest of this area. Common spe- cies include Townsend's pocket gopher, montane meadow mouse, common snipe, and killdeer. The playa is occasionally flooded during spring and is used by migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Long-eared owls nest in buffalo berry found near springs.

Four plant species of special concern are found in the area. Cactus grows on Mickey Butte.

This proposal consists of six BLM wilderness study areas: Heath Lake, Palomino Hills, Sheepshead Mountain, Table Mountain, West Peak, and Wildcat Mountain.

1. Oregon Biodiversity Project. Oregon's Living Landscape. Portland, Ore.: Defenders of Wildlife, 1998, 132.