Exploring the Steens Mountains of
Southeastern Oregon
Exploring the remotest regions of Oregon
October 16-19, 2003
Last Update:  February 18, 2005
This fall trip would involve two vehicles and four people.  John and his girlfriend Jackie in their
1997 Subaru Impreza and my girlfriend Jen and I in my Toyota truck.   On this trip, we would be
exploring the extremely scenic Steens Mountains of deep southern Oregon.  One of the most
remote regions of Oregon and highest drivable point in the state.   Most of this trip focused on the
scenic views and we saw plenty of them as you'll see in the pictures below.
Friday, Day 1          Saturday, Day 2          Sunday, Day 3      
Day Three - October 19, 2003
The next morning we got up and prepared to leave.   This would be our final day of the trip and later in the afternoon
we would have to plan to head home.  Today we started out exploring part of the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuse
for a while.   We didn't see many antelope, but it's a beautiful area.   We did see a few more Big Horn Sheep.   Our
first stop was Petroglyph lake.  Here we found a few Native American petroglyphs that were very old, but we aren't
quite sure how old.  The lake obviously served as some sort of watering hole in this area.
Our third and final campsite on this trip
as seen in the morning.
The road to Petroglyph Lake and the lake itself.  The lake was not very big but it was interesting to think that hundreds of years
ago, Indians stood in this very same spot and things didn't look much different then as they do now.
The only petroglyphs we were able to find were on the north
shore of the lake.  There may have been more, but we didn't
spend a lot of time looking.
Driving away from the lake.
Reaching the west rim of Hart Mountain and then beginning the decent into the valley below offers one of the most
breathtaking views in all of Eastern Oregon.   Below almost the entire valley is covered in lakes for as far as the
eye can see.   These must be shallow lakes or marshes, but the view was just incredible.  Below wildlife is just
abundant, no doubt due to the large water sources.
As we left Hart
Mountain, we turned to
view the sign that would
have greeted us had we
came from this direction.
The views coming down off of Hart Mountain are like no where else.   The lakes below
are called Warner Lakes.
Our final major stop of the trip would be a short hike into Da Garmo Canyon.  This hike was gorgeous.  We followed
a very old trail into the canyon to a small waterfall.   The views were great.  We found several caves in the area and
wondered if perhaps the Indians may have used them.   There were no signs of such use, but who knows.  
Hiking into De Garmo canyon, the views were great.   At the end of the canyon was a small waterfall.
The waterfall in De Garmo canyon.  The headwaters originate on
top of Hart Mountain near where we camped the night before.
USGS map, showing De Garmo
We noticed several natural caves in the area and explore this one.  No signs of prior
inhabitents, but it would have made a great place to sleep for Native Americans.
The view from the cave looking at
the oppisite canyon wall.
As we left De Garmo canyon, we knew our time was short and we had to head for home.  Our next destination would
be the town of Plush for some much needed gas.   From there we would push on through Christmas Valley and then
straight home via highway 97 through Bend, Oregon.   On the way to plush we noticed snake sunning itself in the
middle of the road.  We could let it stay there and get run over, so we stopped, checked it out and moved it off the
highway.    When we reached Plush, we greeted with a closed sign on the gas station. Plush is no bigger than Fields
Station, so it was no surprise that the only gas station was closed tight at 5pm on a Sunday evening.   The gas
situation wasn't bad...yet.   If we could make it to Christmas Valley and find an open station, we would be fine.  
Otherwise, the only other station would be La Pine, about 160 miles away.  I had 7 gallons of reserve fuel and I was
figuring I might have to use it.
The snake we found in the road and later moved for it's own safety.
The gravel road between
Plush and Christmas Valley.
Just outside of Christmas Valley is the very
large remote military radar station.   You
can barely see it in this picture, but the
station antennas covers several square miles
As we pulled into Christmas valley at about 6pm, we noticed that it was getting dark fast.  Although Christmas
valley is a very small town, it does support a local agriculture community and therefore has one large gas station
that is open until at least 7pm.  We got lucky.   We fueled up and made our final push to home.  We still had
hundreds of miles to go to get home, but our sight seeing ended with the sunset.

Eastern Oregon never ceases to amaze me.  No matter how many times I visit the area, there is always new and
interesting things to see.   It's probably one of the most scenic and remote areas of the Northwest, if not the entire
The End