High above Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon, Zumwalt Prairie is North America’s largest remaining native bunch grass prairie. Spanning over 50 miles, the Conservancy’s preserve was recently designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. Learn more
Zumwalt Prairie’s abundant ground squirrels attract one of the continent’s densest concentrations of nesting birds of prey, including golden eagles and prairie falcons. These red-tailed hawks were photographed nesting on the preserve.
The preserve’s diverse habitats are home to several large mammals like this cougar, whose image was captured at night via motion sensor camera. Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, black bear, badger and fox share the landscape, too.
The nature sanctuary also hosts more than 300 wildflowers. Some bloom as early as April, but odds are better in mid-May for viewing rolling hills awash with prairie smoke (pictured), common camas, balsamroot, desert parsley and more.
There are three public trails on Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, but the best one for wildflowers is the Horned Lark. The junction between Duckett and Camp Creek roads is also a great spot.
Since purchasing the preserve in 2000, the Conservancy has partnered with university scientists and other experts to understand and preserve this special place.
Among the projects: a study of the effects of changing cattle grazing intensities on both native plants and animals and on the cattle themselves, and monitoring of restoration efforts to enhance native prairie, shrub lands and streams.
Nature Conservancy volunteers work at Zumwalt Prairie Preserve each field season, restoring the prairie as well as riparian areas for fish and birds. To join our team, check out Oregon’s “Volunteer” section. You have lots of options!