First, Learn Everything You Can About the Desert
Natural History: Something many people do not realize is that deserts are actually full of life! Oregon’s high desert supports a remarkable diversity of plant and animal species, many of which are unique and endangered. With many, many, many natural history resources available, here are three to get you started:
Indigenous History: Many Indigenous peoples live in Oregon’s high desert region today, including members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute), the Klamath Tribes (Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin) and the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe. Their ties to this landscape date back to time immemorial. These two books offer Indigeous perspectives on Oregon’s sagebrush steppe.
- Legends of the Northern Paiute as told by Wilson Wewa, compiled by James Gardner, and published by OSU Press in 2017, shares and preserves 21 original Northern Paiute legends which were previously unpublished.
- Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, written by Sarah Winnemucca in 1883, is an autobiographical memoir and a history of the Paiute people during their first forty years of contact with European Americans. It is considered to be the first known autobiography written by a Native American woman.
Geological History: Yet another incredible aspect of Oregon high desert is that it offers people the chance to see millions of years of geological processes at work. Learning about the geologic origins of the formations you see today will certainly deepen your appreciation for the desert.
- The Geological Journey of Desert Rivers, featuring Dr. Elizabeth Safran, Associate Professor of Geological Science at Lewis & Clark, follows the course of Oregon’s wild rivers as they journey through the lively geology of the high desert and explains how landslides, lava flows and more have interacted with desert rivers.
Public Lands Management: The Oregon Desert Trail travels through a patch-work of public lands, managed by different land management agencies and for different purposes. Learn more about the intricacies of the high desert landscapes as you hike, and what makes these particular areas special. A complete overview of public lands management is provided in the guidebook and marked in detail on the hiking maps. Additionally, these pages will help you learn more about these important places and what your role can be in advocating for them in the future.
To continue your learning about the desert’s plants, animals, cultural history, and more about how public lands are managed, subscribe to ONDA’s e-newsletter, attend ONDA events, watch our High Desert Academy webinars.
When You Are Out on Trail, Explore Thoughtfully
While there are many ways to be a thoughtful, responsible desert traveler, here are two key ideas:
- Travel lightly on the land. Travel on durable surfaces, respect closures, and follow Leave No Trace principles while choosing your path to ensure you are not damaging fragile ecosystems.
- Respect the cultural significance. The Oregon Desert Trail crosses through the traditional homelands of the Northern Paiute, Wasco, Warm Springs, Bannock and Shoshone tribes. Consider yourself a guest in someone’s home and act accordingly. You may also encounter the rock art, artifacts, structures and other signs left by the region’s earliest inhabitants while on the Oregon Desert Trail. These historic and cultural artifacts are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and other authorities. It is illegal to remove or disturb archaeological sites, historic sites or artifacts such as pot shards or arrowheads found on public lands.