Spring Basin Wilderness

Jim Davis   Website

Home to rare desert wildflowers and more

With 10,000 acres of undulating terrain, secluded canyons and spectacular vantages of the John Day Country, Spring Basin is magnificent to explore. This public treasure, forever protected as designated wilderness, offers a profusion of desert wildflowers in the spring and year-round recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback riders, hunters and botanists alike.

A Decade in the Making

To see the Spring Basin Wilderness Area on a map today, consolidated and framed by the John Day River and Pine Creek Conservation Area, it could be fairly assumed by someone unfamiliar with the history of the area  that Spring Basin has always been managed for its wilderness characteristics; naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation.

ONDA and the rest of the coalition that led the lengthy push toward wilderness recall a time when Spring Basin was not protected. We remember the countless hours of community meetings, iterations of maps and proposed land exchanges to consolidate public and private property, and the decade of immense effort that went into sustaining momentum for this effort that on numerous occasions verged on collapse.

“Protecting Spring Basin was truly a team effort, supported by an array of adjacent landowners, local businesses, and citizens,” said then executive director Brent Fenty.

Local farmers and ranchers, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Wheeler County government, the Oregon Hunters Association and ONDA stood at the forefront of this effort. This alliance committed to working together for the long haul to improve access to public lands and bring Wilderness protections to Spring Basin.

On March 30, 2009, some ten years after the process began, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill which included protection for Spring Basin as wilderness. When that news broke, everyone involved in the effort expressed a jubilant sigh of relief, knowing that our shared goal of protecting 10,000 acres of rolling, blossom-filled grasslands overlooking the winding John Day River had finally been achieved.

Since that fateful day in 2009 when Spring Basin Wilderness became a reality, abundant deer and elk populations have found their place in the natural order and winter hikers searching for sun and spring wildflower enthusiasts have been amply rewarded with memorable experiences.


Cottonwood Canyon Riparian Soundscape

Cottonwood Canyon Riparian Soundscape


Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

Also known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, these pit vipers have buff-tan coloring and small, oval blotches to blend into their arid surroundings. Small heat-sensing indentations on each side of the snake’s snout detects warm-blooded prey for better striking accuracy in the dark. Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia

Latin name: Crotalus oreganus lutosus


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.”