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Central Oregon Backcountry

The Central Oregon backcountry encompasses the wild high desert lands of Crook, Jefferson and Deschutes Counties and includes landmarks such as the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Steelhead Falls, Alder Springs and the South Fork of the Crooked River.

The Gateway to Oregon's Dry Side

The Central Oregon Backcountry is one of the most fascinating and diverse landscapes found anywhere in the United States. It is known for its world class beauty, and enjoyed for the amazing recreation opportunities including rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing.  With rolling plains of sagebrush, dramatic river canyons, and dense forests of old growth juniper it is easy to see why people travel from all over to enjoy this desert wonderland!

Deschutes Canyon Photo: Gena Goodman-Campbell
Deschutes Canyon.
Photo: Gena Goodman-Campbell

Enjoy the Outdoors! Hugging the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range, the Central Oregon region serves as the gateway to the High Desert for the majority of Oregon’s residents. Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties make up one of the fastest growing regions in the United States and encompass the major population centers on Oregon’s “dry side”. The beautiful scenery and wealth of open public lands have played a key role in attracting people and businesses to the area, in turn creating a strong connection between “natural amenities” and economic growth in the region.

Click here for ideas of places to visit in Central Oregon's Outback.

South Fork Crooked River
South Fork of the Crooked River.
Photo: John Lasseter
Critical Desert Lands! Most of the desert areas in Central Oregon are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a part of its Prineville District and are a part of the “sagebrush steppe” ecosystem, one of the most imperiled habitats in the U.S. This native habitat is crucial to sustain populations of threatened species, such as sage grouse and pygmy rabbits.

Despite their near-pristine quality, most of the wild desert lands in Central Oregon lack any sort of permanent protection. After more than 20 years of work by ONDA staff and volunteers, Congress designated Central Oregon’s first desert wilderness area in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, just 15 miles east of Bend. Click HERE to see a map of potential Wilderness in Central Oregon.

ancient juniper
Ancient Juniper, Badlands Wilderness.
Photo: Greg Burke

Why Wilderness? There are over 100,000 acres of unique wilderness quality lands throughout Central Oregon that are in dire need of protection.  These special areas face a number of threats as our population grows and due to abuses on public lands. Take action today to support ONDA's efforts to protect more desert wilderness in Central Oregon!

ONDA is working with community groups, residents, and ranchers to find ways to protect some key areas in Central Oregon’s backcountry including the Whychus-Deschutes Proposed Wilderness and the Hidden Springs Proposed Wilderness.


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