Malheur National Forest
The 1.7 million acre Malheur National Forest is located in the Blue Mountains of remote eastern Oregon.
The diverse and beautiful scenery of the Malheur National Forest includes vegetationsuch as high desert grasslands, sage and juniper, pine, fir and other tree species, and the hidden gems of alpine lakes and meadows. Elevations vary from about 4000 feet (1200 meters) to the 9,038 foot Strawberry Mountain. The Strawberry Mountain range extends east to west through the center of the Forest.
For many years, these forested lands have been important to the people who live here. Native Americans hunted game, gathered roots and berries, and traded and socialized with each other sustaining their lives and cultures. These lands are still important to them. As explorers, fur trappers, and gold miners discovered this area, the forest and its many resources played an important role in the development of local communities, a role that continues today.
Some of the forested lands are managed for healthy stands of trees and provide a sustainable harvest to meet the demands of the American public for lumber, paper, and other wood products. Local ranchers graze cattle under carefully managed permits on the meadows and forested range during the late spring, summer and early fall.
Other forested areas are managed to provide unique habitats for wildlife, and recreational opportunities for people to experience primitive natural surroundings.
Recreation has always been an important activity on the Forest. Traditionally, the bulk of recreational use has centered around camping, hunting and fishing. The first public campground on the Forest was built before 1916 along one of the Forest's premier trout streams. Today, camping remains a main attraction for visitors.
Horseback riding and hiking along the many trails used by Forest Service employees and herders has also been a popular pastime -- and still is today.
In 1975 the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area was set aside for non-motorized recreation. The size of the wilderness area was almost doubled in 1984 and an additional wilderness area, Monument Rock, was also declared.
Today, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, off-highway vehicle riding and mountain biking have also become popular forms of forest recreation in recent years.
The Malheur Forest was named for the Malheur River, the headwaters of which are in the southeastern part of the Forest. Malheur is a French word for misfortune (literally "bad hour"). The River was named by the fur trapper Peter Ogden in the 1820's when a cache of supplies hidden along its banks was taken by Indians.
Cy Bingham was the first Malheur Forest Supervisor, a position he held until he retired in 1920. The entire work force at the time consisted of ten employees who had to provide their own horses, saddlery, camp gear, and uniforms. They spent the bulk of the non-winter months camping and patrolling the Forest on horseback.
One aspect of the job for the new Forest was to set up a grazing systems that would alleviate the conflicts between sheep herders and cattlemen, which had sometimes erupted into gun play. Both sides knew that the land was being damaged by over grazing but they had very different opinions as to who was causing the damage. Eventually a grazing permit system was established, and it's still in use today.
Timber production was a relatively minor part of the administration of the forest until 1930 when a substantial logging railroad was built from the town of Burns into Bear Valley at the heart of the Forest. The construction of this rail network was required by the Forest Service as part of the first large scale timber sale on the Forest. The Bear Valley Timber Sale, possibly the largest volume of timber ever sold in the continental United States, was sold to the Hines Lumber Company in 1928. Timber harvest from this sale continued until 1968.