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Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven

The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Proposed Wilderness areas are a stronghold for biological diversity, containing key habitat for mid-Columbia summer steelhead, pygmy rabbit, Ferruginous Hawk, and important wintering habitat for deer, elk, and antelope.

Dramatic basalt cliffs and rolling hills of juniper, sagebrush, and bluebunch wheatgrass make up the area known as the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Proposed Wilderness.

Cathedral Rock by Greg Burke
Cathedral Rock.
Photo: Greg Burke
The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Proposed Wilderness areas are a stronghold for biological diversity, containing key habitat for mid-Columbia summer steelhead, pygmy rabbit, Ferruginous Hawk, and important wintering habitat for deer, elk, and antelope. In total, the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Proposed Wilderness area is home to 36 sensitive plant, fish and animal species including spring Chinook salmon, pacific lamprey, Mountain Quail, Yellow-breasted Chat and arrow-leaf thelypody.

ONDA and adjacent landowners are working together to consolidate and permanently protect 8,500 acres at Cathedral Rock, along the John Day River, and 9,200 acres at Horse Heaven, near Ashwood, Oregon. This proposal will double opportunities to access public lands and will bring four new miles of Wild and Scenic River into public ownership. This proposal will protect stunning views, critical habitat for steelhead, refuge for deer and elk, and provide new opportunities for recreation.

Presently, Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven are part of a larger public lands Bill that aims to protect several of Oregon's Wild and Scenic rivers known as the Oregon Treasures Act of 2013. It has passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee and full committee and is awaiting introduction onto the Senate floor.

Senators Wyden and Merkley are working with landowners to achieve roaded access into Cathedral Rock

 

In February of 2013, Senators Wyden and Merkley issued a letter to landowners involved in land exchanges which are part of the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven wilderness legislation. The Senators requested continued collaboration between landowners and the Jefferson County Commission to improve roaded access to Cathedral Rock. Click here to view the letter.

In March of 2013, the landowners responded by offering a longer season of public access to the area via Muddy Creek Road as well as several other concessions of value to the public. Click here to view the letter.

Below is a map of the proposed season of use. Through this effort, the landowners have offered to create access to the wilderness area and a parking area adjacent to the county road in exchange for the County agreeing to help manage access on Muddy Creek Road.

In addition to granting a perpetual easement for access, this proposal accomplishes the following:

CR/HH Landower proposal map
This map depicts landowner' proposed solutions to roaded access to Cathedral Rock.

  • Provides public access into Cathedral Rock for eight months out of the year including all of the peak months for hiking and hunting.
  • Accounts for the expressed needs of area residents by providing 24-7-365 access to the county road.
  • Addresses the burden of the expected traffic increase on the fragile county road.
  • Deals with expressed concerns of poaching, trespassing, and the anticipated traffic effects of greater public use in the area.
  • Ensures better safety for visitors traveling to the Wilderness Area via Muddy Creek Road.
  • Shares costs between private landowners and County government.
    • Recognizes Jefferson County Board of Commissioners’ desire to enhance tourism in Jefferson County.

    Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have led the effort to craft an equitable solution to provide the public with roaded access to Cathedral Rock. Their hard work deserves to be recognized. Please take a moment to express your thanks to Oregon's Senators for their hard work and let them know that you support designation of Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven as wilderness.

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