Steens Mountain Wilderness

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Steens Mountain Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Steens Mountain wildflowers
Map showing the location of Steens Mountain Wilderness
Map showing the location of Steens Mountain Wilderness
LocationHarney County, Oregon, United States
Nearest cityBurns, Oregon
Coordinates42°40′00″N 118°45′04″W / 42.6665536°N 118.7510263°W / 42.6665536; -118.7510263Coordinates: 42°40′00″N 118°45′04″W / 42.6665536°N 118.7510263°W / 42.6665536; -118.7510263[1]
Area170,166 acres (68,864 ha) [2]
EstablishedOctober 30, 2000
Governing bodyBureau of Land Management
View from the top of Steens Mountain, looking out to Alvord Desert

The Steens Mountain Wilderness is a wilderness area surrounding a portion of Steens Mountain of southeastern Oregon in the United States. The reserve falls within the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area (CMPA). Both the reserve and the CMPA are administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The wilderness area encompasses 170,166 acres (68,864 ha) of the CMPA's total 428,156 acres (173,269 ha).[3] 98,859 acres (40,007 ha) of the Wilderness are protected from grazing and free of cattle.[4]


The Steens Mountain Wilderness ranges in elevation from 4,200 to 9,733 feet (1,280 to 2,967 m) at the summit of Steens Mountain. The reserve features a variety of vegetative zones, from the arid sagebrush zone in the Alvord Desert, through the western juniper, mountain mahogany, mountain big sagebrush, quaking aspen, subalpine meadow, and subalpine grassland, to the snow cover zone.[5]

Steens Mountain is the largest fault-block mountain in North America. Pressure under the Earth's surface thrust the block upward approximately 20 million years ago, resulting in a steep eastern face with a more gentle slope on the western side of the mountain. During the Ice Age, glaciers carved several deep gorges into the peak and created depressions where Lily, Fish, and Wildhorse lakes now stand.[5]


Vegetation in the Steens Mountain Wilderness varies greatly according to elevation. Common plants include sagebrush, juniper, various species of bunchgrass, mountain mahogany, aspen, mountain meadow knotweed, and false hellebore.[5] Other vegetation endemic to Steens Mountain includes Steens paintbrush (Castilleja pilosa var. steenensis), moss gentian (Gentiana fremontii), Steens Mountain penstemon (Penstemon davidsonii var. praeteritus), Steens Mountain thistle (Cirsium peckii), a dwarf blue lupine, and Cusick's buckwheat (Eriogonum cusickii).[6][7][8]


Steens Mountain is home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, sage grouse, and the Great Basin redband trout. Cattle can be found in the wilderness as well, though they are excluded from grazing 98,859 acres (40,007 ha) on top of Steens Mountain.[3][5] Coyote are also known to the area.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Steens Mountain Wilderness". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  2. ^ "Wilderness Acreage Breakdown for The Steens Mountain Wilderness".
  3. ^ a b "Steens Mountain". Bureau of Land Management.
  4. ^ "Steens Mountain Wilderness".
  5. ^ a b c d "Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon". GORP.
  6. ^ Sullivan, William L. (2002). Thurman, Paula (ed.). Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas (3rd ed.). The Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-0-89886-793-0.
  7. ^ St. John, Alan D. (2007). Oregon's Dry Side: Exploring East of the Cascade Crest. Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-829-7.
  8. ^ Mansfield, Donald H. (2000). Flora of Steens Mountain. OSU Press. ISBN 978-0-87071-471-9.

External links[edit]