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Steens Backcountry Fence Pull

Our annual pilgrimage to Steens Mountain Wilderness to backpack, pull fence and explore this scenic and remote corner of eastern Oregon.
When Aug 14, 2012 05:00 PM to
Aug 19, 2012 12:00 PM
Where Steens
Contact Name
Contact Phone (541) 330-2638
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Steens Mountain Wilderness is the first cow-free Wilderness in the lower 48. This giant fault block Mountain nearly 10,000 feet high, carved by glaciers, and covered by wildflowers elicits terms such as "gem", "jewel", and "iconic". ONDA has been helping pull obsolete fence out of the Wilderness here for a decade. Each year we pull out fence that is further and further back into the Wilderness. Our backpack trips to do the work are now annual events.

Barbed wire fences are a significant source of mortality for wildlife, and an eyesore.  Helping remove obsolete fences from cow-free areas has been an ONDA priority since it was founded in 1987.

HERE is a Google map of the South Steens Campground where we will spend the first night before starting the backpack portion of the trip.

2012 Steens Mountain Trip Description
As the snows melt, the flowers come out on Steens Mountain.



  • August 14, Tuesday.  We will meet at the South Steens Campground in the evening. This will allow us to prep for an early departure the next morning.

  • August 15, Wednesday  8AM.  Meet with our BLM representative and carpool to the trailhead.  We'll spend most of the day backpacking in to our base-camp and setting up camp.  Depending on the weather, etc.,  we may be able to get in a bit of fence pulling at the end of the day.

  • August 16, Thursday  First of three big days of pulling down fence.  We will be operating out of our base-camp.

  • August 17, Friday Another big day of pulling down fence.  We will be operating out of our base-camp.
  • August 18, Saturday  Final big day of pulling down fence.  We will be operating out of our base-camp.
  • August 19, Sunday  After breakfast we'll hike out and then head home.

2012 Steens fence pull trip description
Hiking out along Mud Creek during the 2009 Steens Wilderness Fence Pull.


Taking apart barbed wire fence is scratchy, hot, dusty work, and incredibly satisfying.  Fence pulling involves removing fence clips with pliers, rolling barbed wire by human powered machine and by hand, and pulling out posts by hand with a post-pulling jack. We typically head to the work site at 8AM and stop work by 3 in order to leave time in the afternoon to clean-up, relax, and cook a well-deserved dinner.  Getting to the work site typically involves a one mile hike.  It is a wonderful feeling after a day's work to look back and see a landscape restored and fence-less.  Later in the season, BLM mule teams will come through the area and haul out the fencing material we have dismantled.

2012 Steens Fence Pull Trip Description
With this portable roller we can coil up about 150 feet of fence wire at a time.  It makes nice tidy bundles for the horses to haul out later.


We will be operating out of the same camp for the length of the trip. Since we will be backpacking in, you will be carrying in all of your camping gear and food. Potable water will be available, but the setting will be wild: not a developed campsite.


4 out of 5.  We will be carrying in a weeks worth of food and camping gear on our backs, over rolling terrain.  The heavy fence pulling tools will have already been hauled out via mule before the trip.  The 6,000 foot elevation of our work site and backpacking route tends to get sea-level folks a bit winded.  The work is hot and physically demanding. You will have a daypack with you all day, will be bending over to pick things up constantly, and hefting around wire bundles, buckets of metal chunks, metal posts and post pullers. The geography is often gently rolling terrain, but the rocky ground often makes walking difficult. If you are looking for a less strenuous fence pulling opportunity check out our Hart Mountain or or Sheldon Fence Pulls. Click HERE for a description of the trip difficulty rating system.


Participants are responsible for their own food, backpacking/camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots are required for this trip.   This trip is offered to members free of charge.


ONDA will provide tools for the work, expert leadership and can teach you all you need to know about fence pulling!


This trip will be led by ONDA's Wilderness Stewardship Coordinator Jefferson Jacobs
Group size is limited to 11 participants due to Wilderness regulations.


An ONDA registration application and medical form is required for this trip. Click HERE for the form. You only need to fill this form out once per year: You can join additional 2012 trips by e-mailing the trip leader directly. 

You will receive a confirmation e-mail within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation e-mail 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 "wait list". Five 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 wait list. Three weeks before the trip begins, the trip leader will send out an e-mail with additional information, maps, driving instructions, car-pooling options etc. However, if you have any questions in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact the trip leader.

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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638

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