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Oregon

Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena


Why You Should Visit
Located in the transition zone between the moist, heavily-forested west side of the Cascades and the drier bunch grass prairies of the east, Tom McCall Preserve comes into spectacular bloom every spring.

Lava flows, catastrophic floods and volcanic ash deposits shaped a mound-and-swale topography that perplexes the experts. Earthquake sorting, freezing and thawing, erosion, soil accumulations by plants and wildlife burrowing activities have all been suggested as having caused the mounds.

Renowned broadcast journalist, author and outdoor enthusiast Grant McOmie recently visited Tom McCall Preserve. Watch his video to "satisfy your curiosity, let your heart soar and restore your soul in the beauty that is found in Oregon."

Location
On the Old Columbia River Scenic Highway, 11 miles east of Hood River

Size
271 acres

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The preserve is named for Oregon's late governor, Thomas Lawson McCall, whose commitment to conservation in Oregon remains an inspiration. A patchwork of ownership includes the Conservancy, Mayer State Park and national forest lands. The preserve is managed in cooperation with these agencies.

The rare plant populations are monitored by ecologists, and in spring and summer, volunteer docents lead interpretive hikes. 

With assistance from the Portland Garden Club, Berry Botanic Garden, Native Plant Society of Oregon and others, the Conservancy also created a native plant garden in the turnaround at the viewpoint. 

What to See: Plants

From late February through June, one of Oregon's most impressive displays of spring wildflowers is found amidst the mounds, swales and vernal pools of this grassland preserve. More than 200 plant species, including grass widows, prairie stars, shooting stars, balsamroot, lupine and Indian paintbrush thrive here.

The open grasslands are home to four plant species unique to the Columbia River Gorge: Thompson's broadleaf lupine, Columbia desert parsley, Thompson's waterleaf and Hood River milkvetch.

What to See: Animals

The preserve hosts western meadowlark, Oregon's state bird, as well as horned lark, canyon wren and red-winged blackbird. The Pacific chorus frog and mule deer also thrive here.

Spring wildflowers are most abundant in April and May.

At the top of the McCall Point trail, visitors are rewarded with expansive views of the Columbia Gorge and Cascade mountain peaks.

The preserve is often windy, and visitors should beware of ticks, rattlesnakes and poison oak.

Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance. (Dogs are allowed at several nearby locations, including the lower Mayer State Park at the I-84 Rowena Exit.)
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, camping or campfires.
  • For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
  • Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
  • Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).
Directions
  • From I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, take either the Mosier exit (5 miles east of Hood River) or the Rowena exit (8 miles west of The Dalles). 
  • From Mosier, go east on the Old Scenic Highway (US 30). Beyond milepost 6, the preserve is on both sides of the highway.  
  • Park at the Rowena Crest viewpoint or at the trailhead on Highway 30. 

There are two trails on the preserve.

The one-mile plateau trail begins at the interpretive sign at the entrance to the preserve. It crosses the plateau to cliff edges and encircles a permanent pond.

The two-mile McCall Point trail, open May through October, begins from the south side of the turnaround and gains 1,000 feet in elevation. 

Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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