Sunday, February 7, 2010

Steens Mountain

The lead story in today's Oregonian suggests that the scenery around Steens Mountain in southeastern corner of the state is in for a big change. Columbia Energy Partners has recieved county approval to build a large wind farm with turbines over 400' tall on the mountain's north flank. While this economic activity may be a lifesaver for Harney County, it will be at the expense of an area of remote, rugged beauty.

Most mountains come as plurals: the Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains. But, Steens Mountain is a singular...a lone up-thrust of the earth rising above the sagebrush. Known as a fault-block mountain, it was created ten million years ago when massive internal pressures forced the eastern edge upwards. During the Ice Age, glaciers scoured gorges through layers of basalt creating several U-shaped valleys visible today.

The loop road to the summit leaves from the tiny town of Frenchglen and is like an uphill ramp climbing over 5000 feet in 15 miles. Sagebrush gives way to juniper forests, then aspen groves, and finally alpine meadows.

The summit, at 9700’, is the highest point you can drive in Oregon. The mountain ends abruptly with a mile-long, dramatic drop to the Alvord desert and offers spectacular views of the empty expanse of southeastern Oregon.

Better put this destination on your bucket list for a summer road trip real soon.

1 comment:

  1. This will be a good resource when wanting someplace local to share with out of state visitors. Good blog.