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Oregon

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve


Exciting News!

The U.S. Department of the Interior has designated 4,400 acres of Zumwalt Prairie Preserve as a National Natural Landmark! Get details

Why You Should Visit

Oregon's largest privately owned nature sanctuary lies within the Zumwalt Prairie, North America's largest remaining grassland of its type.

Studying the prairie's ecosystem for nearly 20 years led The Nature Conservancy to protect this great place — because of its size, intact bunch grass habitats and incredible concentrations of wildlife. Your support is vital to restoring this landscape essential to Oregon's culture, heritage and economy.

Location

In Wallowa County, in northeast Oregon (near Enterprise and Joseph)

Size

33,000 acres (51 square miles)

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In 2000, The Nature Conservancy purchased 27,000 acres of the Zumwalt Prairie, the largest Oregon acquisition in the organization's history. In 2006, we added 6,065 acres, making the 51-square-mile preserve Oregon's biggest private nature sanctuary.

Conservancy scientists and volunteer teams have been busy surveying, monitoring and studying the area’s animals and plant communities. The struggle to suppress damaging invasive plants in Wallowa County — such as sulfur cinquefoil, meadow hawkweed and common bugloss — has brought diverse interests together. Through invasives mapping, monitoring and removal, the Conservancy and its partners are working to better understand and protect sensitive species, including Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, Spalding’s catchfly and quaking aspen.

Prescribed fire and the limitation of overbrowsing by large mammals are being used to improve plant health and diversity on the preserve. The Conservancy is also working with ranchers across the Zumwalt landscape to manage cattle grazing to maintain the ecological health of the prairie and the economic viability of working ranches. Each year, the Conservancy donates bull elk and buck deer LOP tags to local service organization raffles. To date, the tags have raised over $195,000 for Wallowa County charities.

In addition, Conservancy ecologists and volunteers are working to restore riparian areas for fish and birds. Strategies include planting native vegetation along stream banks, installing fences to prevent erosion, removing stream blockages and monitoring fish populations.

Watch a video from OPB's Oregon Field Guide to learn more about Zumwalt Prairie restoration and research projects, and visit Conservation Gateway

Photos

Treasured Landscape

Immerse yourself in the Conservancy's Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.

What to See: Plants

This diverse preserve hosts nearly a dozen native bunch grasses and over 100 wildflower species. Early in the season, hoary balsamroot, camas and silky lupine put on a spectacular display. Later, goldenrod, pleated gentian, Gardner's yampah and other species continue to provide color and food for pollinating insects. The preserve is also home to one of the largest populations of the threatened Spalding's catchfly which blooms in mid- to late-July.

What to See: Animals

Abundant ground squirrels and other prey support one of the highest known concentrations of breeding raptors in North America. Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks, on the decline throughout the West, thrive here, along with golden eagles and prairie falcons. The prairie is also home to several ground-nesting songbirds including Savannah, vesper, grasshopper and Brewer’s sparrows. During the fall and winter, rough-legged hawks can be spotted after migrating south from arctic breeding grounds.

Large mammals found on the prairie include elk, mule deer, black bear and cougar. The preserve is also a great place to see coyote, short-tailed weasel and badger. Butterflies and snakes (including rattlesnakes) are other animals visitors may observe, and Snake River steelhead, federally listed as a threatened species, spawn in seven miles of the preserve's 51 miles of intermittent and perennial streams, as do inland redband trout.

Preserve access is day use and by foot only.

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.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, camping or campfires.
  • Please leave all gates as you find them.
  • 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).

If you have questions, comments or want to volunteer at the preserve, please contact Zumwalt Prairie Preserve Manager Jeff Fields at (541) 426-3458. Enjoy your visit!

Directions

There are four public access points for visitors to Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. Download directions and a trail map.

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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