Eagle Cap Wilderness

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Located in the Wallow-Whitman National Forest in Oregon.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness was established in 1940. In 1964, it was included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. A boundary revision in 1972 added 73,000 acres and the Wilderness Act of 1984 added 66,100 acres giving a current total of 358,461 acres.

Feature: High & Wild in Eastern Oregon
Read up on adventuring in Eagle Cap and nearby Strawberry Mountain Wildernesses.

Wilderness is defined as an area that "generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable."

This wilderness is characterized by high alpine lakes and meadows, bare granite peaks and ridges, U-shaped glaciated valleys, thick timber in the lower valleys, and scattered alpine timber on the upper slopes. Elevations range from 5,000 feet in lower valleys to near 10,000 feet on the highest of the majestic peaks.

Access is via several main routes--the most heavily used is State Highway 82 to Wallowa Lake, which is one mile from the Wilderness boundary. Other main trailheads are reached from Hurricane Creek Road, Lostine River Road, Indian Crossing on the Imnaha Road, and Boulder Park on the Main Eagle Road. Developed campsites for picnicking and overnight camping are located along each of these roads.

Usually by July 4 the majority of the Eagle Cap Wilderness trails are snow free. Trails that cross the passes often carry snowdrifts until August. The area is then normally open until late October.

Summer temperatures vary with highs in the 90's and lows in the 40's. Higher temperatures cause insect problems: mosquitoes around wet areas and horseflies in other areas. An effective repellent is a necessity. Visitors should also be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and late-afternoon thunderstorms.

The Lakes Basin is the most heavily used part of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. If you are looking for solitude, check with Forest Service offices or your wilderness map for less-frequented locations.

Opportunities for trout fishing are available to the angler in over 37 miles of streams and 53 lakes.

Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and deer, provide hunters and recreationists with additional challenges, either with gun, camera, or the thrill of sighting these or the many other varieties of wildlife found here.

To help protect the wild character of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, visitors are asked to leave no trace of their stay. This means leaving no permanent structures, keeping campfires small and scattering the campfire ring, camping at least 200 feet from lakes, and packing out all unburnable materials.

The Lakes Basin Management Area is the most heavily used and one of the most fragile pans of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The natural attractions of scenic lakes and spectacular peaks combined with easy access can produce crowded conditions during summer weekends, therefore overnight camping opportunities are limited.

Lakes Basin Area

To increase your chances for solitude, plan your trip to this area during the week or possibly in the early fall when less people use the area. You may also want to consider camping outside of the Lakes Basin and taking short hikes or day rides into the area. For even greater solitude, seek out one of the many equally spectacular but far less crowded areas of the wilderness.

A variety of overnight trips of various lengths are available in the Lakes Basin. Day use trips are also possible to some locations such as Ice, Minam and Mirror Lakes. Some access to the basin comes over rugged passes such as Glacier, Hawkins, Honon, and Frazier Passes. An especially spectacular trail leads to the top of Eagle Cap peak at 9,595 feet. Access to this area is by way of trails from nearly all directions. Various access points, difficulty levels and trip lengths are available.

For more information contact: The Wallow-Whitman National Forest.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 25 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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