Why You Should Visit
On the northeastern flanks of the Wallowa Mountains, Clear Lake Ridge's rocky-soiled ridgetops, steep canyon and mile-high lakes provide a spectacular setting and diverse habitats for birds and other wildlife.
This basalt plateau, hosting three shallow lakes amid native grasslands, gives way to Devil's Gulch, a canyon plunging 3,000 feet toward Little Sheep Creek. Views from the plateau include the Seven Devil's range across Hells Canyon into Idaho, and south to the 9,000-ft peaks of the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowas.
East of Joseph, in Oregon's northeast corner
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Conservancy staff and partners have inventoried populations of threatened Spalding’s catchfly, as well as non-native, invasive plant species. Volunteers help control invasives, such as knapweed and Scotch thistle, and monitor and repair fences and exclosures protecting aspen stands. From July through October, volunteer caretakers live here and monitor preserve activities.
What to See: Plants
On the plateau, nearly a dozen native bunch grasses and dozens of wildflower species can be seen. Early in the season, balsamroot, camas and lupine put on a spectacular display. Later, goldenrod, gentian, yampah and other species continue to provide color and food for pollinating insects. The preserve is also home to the threatened Spalding's catchfly, and native grassland communities include Idaho fescue, junegrass and bluebunch wheatgrass.
Devil’s Gulch contains excellent examples of rare and threatened riparian plants. Prominent species include cottonwood, aspen, water birch, black hawthorne, Wood’s rose, serviceberry and Douglas’ spirea.
What to See: Animals
Large mammals thriving here include Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, black bear and cougar. Colonies of Belding ground squirrels provide food for raptors, coyote and badger.
More than 250 bird species are also known to frequent the preserve—with more than 100 observed nesting—such as mountain bluebirds, grasshopper sparrows and red-eyed vireo. Swainson's hawks, goshawks, mountain quail, ruffed grouse, yellow-breasted chats, lazuli buntings and canyon wrens also live here, and golden eagles and ferruginous hawks sometimes nest in the vicinity of Downey Lake.
The best time to visit for wildflower displays is May and June, but be on the lookout for western rattlesnakes. Download a trail map.
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.
- 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.
- Report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).
- Be mindful of ownership boundaries and do not trespass on private lands neighboring the preserve.
The preserve is accessed on a rough—but scenic—hiking trail up Devil’s Gulch. To reach the trailhead from Joseph:
- Drive approximately 20 miles east on the Little Sheep Creek Highway (toward Imnaha)
- After you pass the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest sign on the south (right) side of the highway, pull over at the next tributary and park on the south side of the highway. (If you pass a fish hatchery located .5 mile further, you’ll know you have missed the preserve entrance.)
- Cross the footbridge over the creek just east of the preserve signs.
- Go through the pole fence and hike up the canyon.
Questions? Comments? Interested in preserve volunteer opportunities?
Please contact Jeff Fields at The Nature Conservancy's office in Enterprise, (541) 426-3458.