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 20,266 acres (8,201 ha)
Established September 30, 1996
Governing body United States Forest Service

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.[2]

Opal Creek and nearby Opal Lake were named for Opal Elliot, wife of early Forest Service ranger Roy Elliot.[3]


The 20,266-acre (8,201 ha) Opal Creek Wilderness is adjacent to a designated "scenic recreation area" of 13,000 acres (5,300 ha), creating a nearly 34,000-acre (14,000 ha) protected area. In addition, the 27,427-acre (11,099 ha) Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest shares its southern boundary with the Opal Creek Wilderness.[4][5]


Cabins of former mining community of Jawbone Flats, now used by the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center

The wilderness was designated 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, 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.[6] 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.[7] Mark O. Hatfield remarks. With the input of a federal advisory committee, the area has been managed and preserved by the U.S. Forest Service pursuant to the Opal Creek legislation.[1]

Natural history[edit]

The Opal Creek Valley contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles (58 km) of hiking trails. It forms the largest intact stand of Old growth forest in the western Cascades and 500–1000-year-old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, and Western Hemlock.[5] Common hardwoods include big leaf maple and red alder. Understory vegetation includes huckleberry, vine maple and rhododendron.[8] There are eight trails in Opal Creek, totaling 36 miles. These are remnants of the early day prospecting and fire access routes.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. National Wilderness Preservation System Map (Map). Wilderness.net. Retrieved 2014-07-28. 
  2. ^ "Opal Creek Wilderness". The Cranberry House. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  3. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; Lewis L. McArthur (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87595-277-1. 
  4. ^ "Willamette National Forest—Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Area Trail Area". United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Willamette National Forest—Opal Creek Wilderness". United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  6. ^ David Seideman (June 1993). Showdown at Opal Creek: The Battle for America's Last Wilderness. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-88184-867-0. 
  7. ^ Michael Donnelly (Spring 1997). "Opal Creek Preserved". Alternatives. Get Real Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  8. ^ a b Willamette National Forest - Opal Creek Wilderness

External links[edit]