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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
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.

Some history
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.

First-timer’s Adventure

VINEGAR HILL-INDIAN ROCK SCENIC AREA

Located in the northeast part of the Forest, this high elevation area provides spectacular vistas of the North Fork John Day Wilderness, the Middle and North Fork drainages of the John Day River, and the peaks of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness to the south.

Nearly every type of alpine wildflower found west of the Rockies can be blooming at different times in this area. Big game species and upland game birds are common. There is a variety of geologic formations including basalt, rhyloite, granite, and shales; rockhounders will find agate, jasper, and quartz.

The area has a rich history and active and decaying remains of mines can be seen. The area provides unfettered opportunities for solitude and isolation except during big-game hunting seasons.

To reach this wonderous area follow highway 26 for approximately 26 miles, turn right onto highway 7, follow highway 7 for about 1 mile, turn right onto county road 20, continue on county road 20 for about 11 miles, then turn onto Forest Service Road 45, continue for approximately 4 miles where you will reach the boundary of this scenic area.

Statistics

State(s):

Oregon

Nearest Large Urban Area:

Baker City

Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.

Permits, Passes and Fees

A Northwest Forest Pass is required if you are parking at or within a quarter mile of many Wallowa-Whitman National Forest trailheads. It is also valid in any national forest in Washington or Oregon and in the North Cascades National Park. The cost is $30 for an annual pass and $5 for a day pass. The money goes directly towards trail and trailhead maintenance. They can be purchased at any Forest Service office and at many local vendors.

Maps:

Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.