Opal Creek Wilderness

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Opal Creek Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Opal creek old growth 2.JPG
Old growth in Opal Creek Wilderness
Location Marion / Clackamas counties, Oregon, USA[1]
Nearest city Detroit, Oregon
Coordinates 44°50′48.14″N 122°12′32.79″W / 44.8467056°N 122.2091083°W / 44.8467056; -122.2091083Coordinates: 44°50′48.14″N 122°12′32.79″W / 44.8467056°N 122.2091083°W / 44.8467056; -122.2091083
Area 20,746 acres (8,396 ha)[2]
Established September 30, 1996
Governing body United States Forest Service
Cabins of former mining community of Jawbone Flats, now owned by Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center

The Opal Creek Wilderness is a wilderness area located in the Willamette National Forest in the U.S. state of Oregon, on the border of the Mount Hood National Forest. It has the largest uncut watershed in Oregon.[3]

Opal Creek and nearby Opal Lake were named for Opal Elliot, wife of early Forest Service ranger Roy Elliot.[4]

Geography and ecology[edit]

The 20,746-acre (8,396 ha) Opal Creek Wilderness is adjacent to a designated "scenic recreation area" of 13,538 acres (5,479 ha), creating a nearly 35,000-acre (14,000 ha) protected area.[2][5] In addition, the 36,870-acre (14,920 ha) Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest shares its southern boundary with the Opal Creek Wilderness.[6]

The Opal Creek Valley contains 50 waterfalls and five lakes. Eight hiking trails, remnants of the early day prospecting and fire access routes, total 36 miles (58 km).[7] The valley forms the largest intact stand of old growth forest in the western Cascades, and 500- to 1000-year-old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas-fir, Pacific silver fir, and western hemlock. Common hardwoods include bigleaf maple and red alder. Understory vegetation includes huckleberry, vine maple and rhododendron.[8]


The wilderness was designated on September 30, 1996, after a nearly 20-year battle to protect the area from logging and mining. In 1980, the District Ranger of the Detroit Ranger District, Dave Alexander, vowed to "cut Opal Creek." By late 1981, clearcut boundary markers were placed. Lawsuits were filed, Wild and Scenic Rivers were designated, and multiple bills to protect the area failed, including an attempt to make it a state park. When books and photo essays were published in the early 1990s, national attention was brought to the area.[9] Finally, in 1996, after working with all stakeholders, including environmental groups, local communities and representatives of the timber industry, to draft consensus legislation, United States Senator Mark Hatfield obtained passage of expansive legislation to protect Opal Creek.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. National Wilderness Preservation System Map (Map). Wilderness.net. Retrieved 2014-07-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Opal Creek Wilderness". Wilderness.net. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  3. ^ "Opal Creek Wilderness". The Cranberry House. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  4. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; Lewis L. McArthur (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-277-1. 
  5. ^ "Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  6. ^ "Bull of the Woods Wilderness". Wilderness.net. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  7. ^ "Opal Creek Wilderness". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  8. ^ "Opal Creek Wilderness: Overview/Background". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  9. ^ David Seideman (June 1993). Showdown at Opal Creek: The Battle for America's Last Wilderness. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-88184-867-0. 
  10. ^ Michael Donnelly (Spring 1997). "Opal Creek Preserved". Alternatives. Get Real Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  11. ^ Mark O. Hatfield remarks

External links[edit]