Cottonwood Canyon Planting

Mark Molner


Stewardship Pronghorn Fence

Stewardship Pronghorn Fence


Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

“If I have to pick a favorite place in Oregon’s high desert, it would be Sutton Mountain, but I’m excited about all of the Wilderness Study Areas,” says Terry, adding, “Each is a gem to explore, and I hope they all get protection someday… I love the scale of the physical beauty of the desert.”


Tibetan Monks Visit Sutton Mountain

Tibetan Monks Visit Sutton Mountain

Organizer: Jefferson Jacobs

Start Date: 11/1/2018

End Date: 11/4/2018

Region: John Day River Basin River Basin

Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 5

Maximum Group Size: 25 participants

About the place

Cottonwood Canyon State Park is one of Oregon’s newest state parks. Formerly the Murtha Ranch, this 8,000-acre paradise exemplifies the rugged beauty of the John Day River territory with remarkable canyons, tall plateaus and sweeping sage-covered views. Cottonwood is home to bighorn sheep, Pronghorn antelope and elk, and the John Day River running through it is laden with chinook, steelhead and other species of native trout.

View the map.

About the stewardship work

This trip work involves restoring three miles of riparian habitat along Hay Creek, a steelhead rearing tributary of the John Day. Historic overgrazing, cycles of flood and drought, and recent wildfires have resulted in a creek eroded up to 20 feet below its surrounding floodplains, and very little native plant diversity. The four-year Hay Creek restoration project (now in its second year of implementation) will involve protecting existing vegetation from browse, building beaver dam analogues (BDAs) to provide irrigation to dry floodplains to make them suitable for planting, and installing a large number of diverse, native riparian plant species.

On this trip ONDA volunteers will be digging holes and planting 1,375 potted plants within protective exclosures built earlier in the summer. These exclosure locations were chosen based on the soil moisture provided by the adjacent BDAs we built in August, and the suitability for actually being able to dig a hole. Volunteers can rotate as desired through tasks such as digging holes and planting plants, hauling dirt, and installing cardboard weed mulch.

No experience or special equipment necessary, just a willingness to learn. Some tasks will be physically strenuous, but there are plenty of tasks which are not, or can be accomplished at a pace appropriate to your specific abilities.

Trip highlights and challenges

  • Navigating steep incised stream banks and potentially variable fall temperatures.
  • A major feeling of accomplishment in being part of work which will fundamentally improve three miles of creek and eventually insulate it from the impacts of climate change.
  • The relative closeness of the project area to Portland allowing for day-trip access if desired.

Trip timeline

  • Friday, November 1, 5 p.m.: We will meet at the Cottonwood Canyon Campground. After dinner we’ll have time to talk more in depth about the coming days’ work and its significance in the bigger picture.
  • Saturday-Saturday, November 2-3: After breakfast, we’ll car-pool the 20 minutes or so to the worksite in Hay Creek. We’ll be away from camp all day, but head back around 3:30.  If folks need to head out that evening to get back to work that is totally fine.
  • Monday, November 4: After breakfast, we will break down camp and volunteers can head home.


We will be camping in the luxurious Cottonwood Canyon State Park Campground. There is potable water onsite, bathrooms and kitchen shelters.


This trip has such a wide variety of work, that there is ample opportunity for finding a job that fits with your abilities. In general, however, all tasks will require the ability to navigate uneven ground, and getting up and down from the ground.  Everyone can pace themselves, regulate their own level of effort, switch between various available tasks of varying intensities and rest as needed. 

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. Car-pooling will be available.  Participants should be prepared to be away from camp all day each of the work days.

Gear provided

ONDA will provide tools for the work, some group camping equipment, and expert leadership. We also provide hot water at morning and evening mealtimes to help expedite meal prep, and yummy espresso coffee in the morning.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip. Check the box next to each trip you would like to attend. You only need to fill this form out once per year.

 Apply Now

What happens next?

You will receive a confirmation email within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “waitlist.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, car-pooling options, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.