Trout Creek Mountains

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Trout Creek Mountains
Disaster Peak and wildflowers.jpg
Disaster Peak and spring wildflowers in 2013
Highest point
Peak Orevada View Benchmark
Elevation 8,506 ft (2,593 m)
Coordinates 41°58′46″N 118°13′23″W / 41.97944°N 118.22306°W / 41.97944; -118.22306[1]
Dimensions
Length 51 mi (82 km) north–south
Width 36 mi (58 km) west–east
Area 811 sq mi (2,100 km2) including surrounding non-mountainous areas
Geography
Country United States
States Oregon and Nevada
Counties Harney County, Oregon
Humboldt County, Nevada[2]
Range coordinates 42°13′N 118°15′W / 42.22°N 118.25°W / 42.22; -118.25Coordinates: 42°13′N 118°15′W / 42.22°N 118.25°W / 42.22; -118.25[3]
Geology
Period Triassic, Cretaceous, and Neogene (Miocene epoch)
Type of rock Volcanic; uplifted and faulted

The Trout Creek Mountains are an arid, remote mountain range mostly in southeastern Oregon and partially in northern Nevada in the United States. The highest point in the range is Orevada View Benchmark, which is in Nevada. Most of the Trout Creek Mountains is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. There is very little human development in the region, and the range's few year-round streams provide habitat for the rare Lahontan cutthroat trout. However, there are grazing allotments that created environmental concerns in the 1980s. The Trout Creek Mountain Working Group was formed in 1988 to help resolve the conflict between livestock owners and environmentalists.

Geography[edit]

The Trout Creek Mountains cover an area of 811 square miles (2,100 km2) including surrounding low-lying areas. The range runs 51 miles (82 km) north to south and 36 miles (58 km) east to west. Most of the Trout Creek range is in Oregon (78%); however, a portion of it extends into northern Nevada. The highest peak in the range is Orevada View Benchmark, which is 8,506 feet (2,593 m) above sea level at its summit.[3] It is located in Nevada, approximately one mile south of the Oregon border.[1] The high point in Oregon is an unnamed ridge summit approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Orevada View.[4] About two miles south of Orevada View is Disaster Peak,[5] "a impressive, symmetrical butte that is visible throughout the region."[6] At 7,781 feet (2,372 m), Disaster Peak anchors the southern end of the Trout Creek Mountains in a smaller range called The Granites.[3][7] The Oregon Canyon Mountains border the Trout Creek Mountains on the HarneyMalheur county line, as defined by the United States Geological Survey.[2][8][9] The Bilk Creek Mountains in both Oregon and Nevada border the Trout Creek range on the southwest, separated by Log Cabin Creek and South Fork Cottonwood Creek.[10][11]

The terrain in the Trout Creek Mountains ranges from broad, flat basins and rolling ridges to high rock escarpments cut by deep canyons. The canyons have steep walls with loose talus slopes below. The rugged ridges are separated by high-desert basins. There are meadows around spring areas, although the Trout Creek range has only a few streams that flow year-round. The two largest streams are Trout Creek and Whitehorse Creek, which both flow down the north side of the mountains into dry desert basins.[4][6][12]

Geology[edit]

Trout Creek canyon in Oregon's basin and range country

The Trout Creek Mountains in southeastern Oregon are part of the Basin and Range Province of the Western United States, which is characterized by a series of parallel fault blocks that form long north–south-oriented mountain ranges separated by wide, high, desert valleys. The Trout Creek Mountains are uplifted and tilted blocks with steep escarpments along the southern and eastern sides of the range. The southern area of the range has numerous granitic outcroppings formed during the Cretaceous period. These outcroppings are commonly found at the bases of volcanic ridgelines.[6]

The Trout Creek Mountains are composed of basalt from a series of shield volcanoes that once stood where Steens Mountain is today. These volcanoes began erupting about 17 million years ago, producing a series of lava flows that spread across the land where the Trout Creek Mountains stand today. The eruptions lasted for about one million years. At least seventy separate lava flows occurred. Ultimately, the basalt layers in the Trout Creek area reached a thickness of about 4,500 feet (1,400 m).[13] However, the Trout Creek Mountains also have much older metamorphic rocks underlying the more recent basalt flows. These rocks may be related to some of the Triassic formations of the Blue Mountains to the north. These strata have diorite and granodiorite intrusions, probably formed in the Cretaceous period.[14][15]

One of the unique geologic features in the Trout Creek Mountains is McDermitt Caldera. The caldera is a collapsed lava dome located in the southern part of the range. It was created by volcanic eruptions in the early Miocene epoch, about 19 million years ago. A total of five large ash flows were produced along with a large rhyolite dome structure. The caldera was formed when the dome collapsed about 16 million years ago.[16]

Climate[edit]

The Trout Creek Mountains are semiarid due to the dominant weather pattern that moves moist air from the Pacific Ocean eastward over the Oregon and California coastal ranges and the Cascade Range before passing over the Trout Creek Mountains. This creates a rain shadow effect that blocks most of the Pacific moisture from reaching the Trout Creek Mountains. As a result, the average annual precipitation in the Trout Creek area ranges from 8 to 26 inches (20 to 66 cm) per year. Over half of the annual precipitation occurs between the beginning of March and the end of June. Most of the rest falls as snow during the fall and winter months. Snowpack at elevations below 6,000 feet (1,800 m) usually melts by April; however, at the higher elevations, snow often remains until mid-June. Local flooding often occurs in the spring as the snowpack melts.[17]

The prevailing winds are west-southwest, and they are normally strongest in March and April. Brief, intense thunderstorms are common between April and October. Those that occur during the summer months tend to be more isolated and often produce dry lightning strikes.[17]

Ecology[edit]

Flora[edit]

Vegetation in the Trout Creek Mountains is dominated by big sagebrush and desert grasses. Other common shrubs include bitterbrush, snowberry, and ceanothus. There are also patches of mountain mahogany, a flowering plant, in some areas. Common grass species include Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, cheatgrass, western needlegrass, Sandberg's bluegrass, Thurber's needlegrass, and bottlebrush squirreltail, as well as basin wildrye in some well drained areas.[17]

The narrow riparian greenway along Trout Creek

Less than one percent of the range is meadow wetlands and riparian greenways. However, these areas are extremely important to the local ecosystem. There are high mountain meadows around springs. Most of the springs are located on gently sloping uplands or in stream bottoms. The meadows range in size from less than 1 acre (0.4 ha) to more than 5 acres (2 ha). Narrow riparian greenways follow the year-round streams. Many greenway areas have quaking aspen and willow groves. Cottonwood and alder groves can be found at lower elevations where terrain is flatter and stream channels are wider. Sedges and rushes are also native to these stream bottoms. Years of heavy livestock grazing in parts of the range resulted in the loss of some grass species and riparian zone plants as well as young aspen and willow trees.[17]

Fauna[edit]

Animals in the Trout Creek Mountains are adapted to the high desert environment. Pronghorn are common in the open, sagebrush-covered basins while mule deer live in the cottonwood and willow groves. There are also bighorn sheep and cougars in the high country. Jackrabbits and coyotes are common throughout the range.[18][19][20] North American beavers live along some of the range's streams.[11] Bird species native to the Trout Creek Mountains include sage grouse, mountain chickadees, gray-headed juncos, black-throated gray warbler, Virginia's warbler, MacGillivray's warbler, pine siskin, red crossbill, bushtit, hermit thrush, northern goshawks, ravens, and eagles.[20][21]

Several streams in the Trout Creek Mountains are home to the rare Lahontan cutthroat trout, a subspecies of the cutthroat trout. They include Willow Creek, Whitehorse Creek, Little Whitehorse Creek, Doolitle Creek, Fifteen Mile Creek, Indian Creek, Sage Canyon Creek, Line Canyon Creeks, and some tributaries of McDermitt Creek. The Lahontan cutthroat trout was listed as an endangered species in 1970 and was reclassified as threatened in 1975.[22] The Lahontan's overall numbers have declined due to habitat degradation, drought, and hybridization with introduced rainbow trout, which has reduced the population of genetically pure Lahontan cutthroat trout.[9][17][22][23] Lahontan cutthroat trout live in small, isolated populations that are often confined to individual streams, many of them in the Trout Creek Mountains. These populations have some genetic differences between them due to their history of isolation, so the Lahontan cutthroat trout is sometimes considered to have multiple subspecies of its own.[23]

Human uses[edit]

Willow Creek is critical trout habitat.

Most of the Trout Creek Mountains consists of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The entire mountain range is very remote; as a result, there are few visitors. Camping, hunting, fishing, and hiking are the most popular activities. There are also mining claims and grazing allotments in the mountains.[6][12] Mining has been very limited because the mineral deposits found in the area have never been economical to extract.[6]

The Trout Creek Mountains offer a wilderness-like experience. Since there are no campgrounds in the area, overnight visitors must be prepared for wilderness conditions. Hunters come to the area seeking trophy mule deer, antelope, chukars, and rabbits. Trout fishing is permitted on a catch and release basis. The mountains also offer visitors the opportunity to hike on game trail in natural corridors that follow the secluded canyons and creek bottoms or cross-country along the open ridges and rim rocks. There are also more than 100 Native American archaeological sites that reveal the presence of Northern Paiute people for about 7,000 years. Near the Whitehorse Ranch there are miles of trail designated for 4-wheel off-road vehicles.[6][9][20][24]

Cattle grazing in the Trout Creek Mountains began in the late 19th century. Today, the Bureau of Land Management oversees grazing allotments in the area. As a result of these allotments, cattle can be found grazing in some areas during the spring and summer. Their impact on the local environment was the subject of controversy in the 1980s.[18]

Trout Creek Mountains Working Group[edit]

By the 1980s, a century of heavy grazing had reduced much of the riparian vegetation along stream banks in the Trout Creek Mountains and elsewhere in the Great Basin. As a result, stream banks were eroding and upland vegetation was encroaching into riparian zones.[18][25][26] Aspen populations were declining as young trees were eliminated by grazing cattle. These conditions also put the rare Lahontan cutthroat trout population at risk. Since the Lahontan is officially designated as a threatened species, environmental groups began advocating that grazing permits in the Trout Creek Mountains be cancelled.[18][25]

As environmentalists pressed the Bureau of Land Management to close much of the Trout Creek Mountains to grazing, frustrated ranchers joined the Sagebrush Rebellion seeking to protect their grazing allotments. Initially, it appeared that the issue of grazing in the Trout Creek range would produce prolonged litigation with appeals potentially lasting decades. However, in 1988, a number of interest groups representing all sides of the issue joined together to form the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group. The goal of the group was to find a solution acceptable to everyone—a plan that would protect both the ecological health of the land and the economic well-being of ranchers.[18][27]

Initial members of the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group included:[27]

Over the next several years, the group continued to meet and discuss options for restoring the land while meeting the economic needs of local ranchers. All meetings were open to the public.[27]

The group eventually endorsed a grazing management plan that provided for both the ecological health of sensitive riparian areas and the economic well-being of ranchers. In 1989, the Whitehorse Ranch agreed to rest two grazing allotments totaling 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) to restore critical stream greenways and mountain pastures. The ranch's allotment on Fifteen Mile Creek was rested for three years, and its Willow Creek pasture received a five-year rest before grazing was resumed. In addition, the grazing season in mountain pastures was reduced from four months to two, and the total number of cattle released in the allotment areas was reduced from 3,800 to 2,200. Finally, sensitive areas were fenced to protect them from cattle, and additional water sources were constructed away from streams. Other ranches also agreed to rest specific pastures including Trout Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and the Whitehorse Butte allotments.[12][27][28]

In 1991, the Bureau of Land Management approved a new grazing allotment management plan. It was based on the agreements made by the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group. The new plan took effect in 1992. Since then, vegetation in riparian areas of the Trout Creek Mountains has recovered, and studies by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have found that the Lahontan cutthroat trout population is also recovering.[12][27]

Cottonwood Creek, BLM, Oregon, 1988.jpg Cottonwood Creek, BLM, Oregon, 2002.jpg
Cottonwood Creek riparian
area before restoration, 1988
Cottonwood Creek riparian
area after restoration, 2002

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Orevada View Benchmark, Nevada", Peakbagger Database, Geographic Research Systems, Peakbagger.com, Seattle, Washington, 23 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Trout Creek Mountains". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 28 November 1980. Retrieved 20 July 2014.  This source gives the coordinates for the range's south end, which is in Humboldt County, Nevada.
  3. ^ a b c "Trout Creek Mountains", Peakbagger Database, Geographic Research Systems, Peakbagger.com, Seattle, Washington, 21 April 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Southeast Oregon Basin and Range", SummitPost, summitpost.org, 12 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Disaster Peak, Nevada", Peakbagger Database, Geographic Research Systems, Peakbagger.com, Seattle, Washington, 23 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Disaster Peak Wilderness Study Area" (PDF), Nevada Wilderness Study Area Notebook, Winnemucca Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior, Winnemucca, Nevada, April 2001.
  7. ^ "The Granites". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 12 December 1980. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Oregon Canyon Mountains". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 1 April 1993. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Kerry, Andy (2000). Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 154–156. ISBN 978-0-89886-602-5. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Bilk Creek Mountains". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 12 December 1980. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Trout Creek Mountains", SummitPost, summitpost.org, 23 August 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d Elmore, Wayne, "Trout Creek Mountains, Oregon", The Aurora Project, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Prineville, Oregon, 15 March 2000.
  13. ^ Bishop, Ellen Morris, "Steens Basalt", In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2003, p. 132. ISBN 978-0-88192-590-6.
  14. ^ McKee, Bates, Cascadia: The Geologic Evolution of the Pacific Northwest, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, New York, 1972. ISBN 978-0-07-045133-9.
  15. ^ "Pueblo Mountain Wilderness Study Area" (PDF), Nevada Wilderness Study Area Notebook, Winnemucca Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior, Winnemucca, Nevada, April 2001.
  16. ^ Ryuba, James J., and Walter K. Conrad, "Petrochemical Characteristics of Volcanic Rocks Associated with Uranium Deposits In The McDermitt Caldera Complex", Uranium in Volcanic and Volcaniclastic Rocks, edited by P. C. Goodell and A. C. Waters, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1981, p. 63.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Description of Existing Environment" (PDF), Trout Creek Geographic Management Area – Standards of Rangeland Health Evaluation, Vale District, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Vale, Oregon, August 2006.
  18. ^ a b c d e Hatfield, Doc and Connie Hatifield, "Trout Creek Mountain Working Group", The Aurora Project, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Prineville, Oregon, 15 April 2000.
  19. ^ "Northern Basin and Range Ecoregion" (PDF), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Salem, Oregon, 12 August 2014.
  20. ^ a b c "About the Ranch", Whitehorse Ranch, www.whitehorseranch.info, Fields, Oregon. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012.
  21. ^ "Oregon Canyon and Trout Creek Mountains", Audubon Society of Portland, Portland, Oregon, 12 August 2014.
  22. ^ a b "Lahontan cutthroat trout", Fact Sheet, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of Interior, Portland, Oregon, 11 April 2008.
  23. ^ a b "Lahontan Cutthroat Trout". Chapter 4: Cutthroat Trout. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Archived from the original on 25 June 2009. 
  24. ^ Quinlan, Angus R., ed. (2007). Great Basin Rock Art: Archaeological Perspectives. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-87417-696-4. 
  25. ^ a b Hanson, Mary, "The Trout Creek Mountain Working Group: A Fifteen-Year Perspective" (Section I, 11). Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. This report is from the Aspen Delineation Project, specifically "Ecology and Management of Aspen Rangelands: The Society of Range Management Annual Meeting" from 11 to 16 February 2007 in Reno, Nevada.
  26. ^ Belsky, A.J.; Matzke, A.; Uselman, S. (1999). "Survey of Livestock Influences on Stream and Riparian Ecosystems in the Western United States" (PDF). Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (Soil and Water Conservation Society) 54: 419–431. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  27. ^ a b c d e "About the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group", The Aurora Project, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Prineville, Oregon, 15 April 2000.
  28. ^ "Trout Creek Mountains Restoration" (PDF), Vale District, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Vale, Oregon, 2002.

External links[edit]