Umatilla National Forest Overview

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Deep in Eastern Oregon lies a 1.4-million-acre forest called "Umatilla" by local Native Americans, which means, "water rippling over sands." An odd name, to be sure, for an inland forest. But after a visit here you'll come to believe this national forest was named appropriately. The Blue Mountains cover this area like a sea of timbered slopes sprawling across ridges and valleys alike.

Like Lewis and Clark and Oregon Trail pioneers before you, exploration of the Umatilla will bring you to untamed wildlife, wild rivers and wilderness.

Hike a National Caliber Trail
It's not every day the whole family can enjoy a trail of national distinction, but the Jubilee Lake National Recreation Trail allows just that. This gentle trail provides fantastic views of Jubilee Lake and the surrounding region, as well as nearby campgrounds and great fishing once you reach Jubilee Lake. Rare Oregon bird species inhabit the area, so encourage the kids to raise their eyes from the trail to the trees.

Bike South Fork Desolation Trail
Ride through beautiful meadows and tackle challenging terrain on the 8.1-mile South Fork Desolation Trail in the North Fork John Day Ranger District. Keep your eyes peeled for the area's diverse collection of birds.

Raft a Wild and Scenic River
The North Fork John Day River seems to please everyone. Whereas its lower sections are appropriate for the novice floater, the upper sections cater to more seasoned rafters, the kind who aren't happy unless water is lapping into the boat. The rapids of this Wild and Scenic River continue for 40 miles through deep canyons cut by side creeks. The most popular part of the river is from Dale to Monument, where the rapids range from Class II to Class III.

Scan for Feathered Friends
More than 200 of the bird species that can be found across the Northwest reside in or pass through Umatilla National Forest at some point in the year. Pileated woodpeckers, mountain bluebirds, and western tanagers are among the more colorful species on display, as well as bald eagles, great gray owls, Steller's jay, and three-toed woodpeckers. The best viewing is at Bridge Creek Flats, Jubilee Lake, or Upper Olive.

Drive Blue Mountain Scenic Byway
For mile upon mile of classic Northwestern scenery, drive the 130-mile Blue Mountain Scenic Byway. If the urge to stretch your legs hits, then pull over at The Oregon Trail, the Wild and Scenic John Day River, or the North Fork John Day Wilderness for a detour on foot.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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