The Crooked River National Grassland (NG) is comprised of 111,379 acres
and located in central Oregon. Overall administration is provided by the Ochoco
National Forest Supervisor's Office. There are 2 developed
campgrounds both of which meet the selection criteria.
Most people think "silence" is the absence of all sound. The
silence experienced at the Crooked River National Grassland (NG)
is full of sounds. There's the scream of a Golden eagle, honking
of migrating Canadian geese, the special laughter of a loon,
whispers from the wind through junipers, chattering poplar
leaves, a lonely yip of a coyote, and so much more. It is the
sounds of nature that give the Crooked River NG its wonderfully
rich silence. It might be hard today to think this land was once
sorely abused and is now in the process of recovering but the
return of its many sounds illustrates this NG's recovery.
The areas now designated as "grasslands" were settled in the
1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts" which opened the land
to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A
prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s
caused some homesteads on sub-marginal farmland (a location
receiving 15 or less inches of annual moisture) to literally dry
up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the
Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from
bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to stabilize the
eroding soil by re-seeding it and applying other conservation
techniques. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the
USDA Forest Service which was tasked with management of these
sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service has
established some twenty National Grasslands. "The designation of
the area as National Grassland is not a description of the area
as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area
to a multiple of uses and benefits."
It is thought Crooked River NG was covered with bluebunch
wheatgrass and Idaho fescue, along with some sagebrush,
rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, and juniper, before its cultivation and
during its homesteading period. No longer plowed, slowly these
plants are returning and the NG is believed to be looking more as
it did in the early 1800s. As the native plants return, evidence
of Euro-American homesteader presence is fading.
Some of the evidence of human activity in the NG is being
preserved. Places like the Gray Butte Cemetery and McCoin
Orchard, and the poplar trees growing in neat rows provide
reminders that this land was once noisy with human activity.
Drought, erosion, and insects forced many homesteaders off the
land but today Haystack Reservoir (a.k.a. Haystack Lake), located
on the NG's western border between Madras and Terrebonne, OR.,
helps farmers around the NG to have successful growing seasons.
Besides being a source of water for irrigation, Haystack Lake
attracts birds of all types, sizes, and species as well as
campers to the NG and Haystack Lake campground. Views of
Haystack Butte and the snow capped southern Cascade Mountains
offer campers a panoramic backdrop to hours of fishing and
birdwatching opportunities. The campground is well located for
day trips to Gray Butte Cemetery, McCoin Orchard, Rimrock Sprincs
Wildlife Management Area and numerous hiking and mountain
bicycling trails in the area. Perhaps the most conveniently
located and challenging of these trails is the 10-mile Warner
Loop or the Ridge Rider Endurance Trail system.
Cole Loop, another trail in the Ridge Rider Endurance Trail
system, is a total of 25 challenging miles and begins at Skull
Hollow Camp campground. Skull Hollow Camp campground, not as developed as
Haystack Lake campground, is very rustic, and often regarded as
an "overflow" campground for Smith Rock State Park.
Whether your interests are fishing, biking, hiking, boating,
exploring, birdwatching, or just enjoying the silence of nature,
the Crooked River National Grassland awaits your discovery.
3160 N.E. 3rd Street
Prineville, Oregon 97754
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESS
813 S.W. Hwy. 97
Madras, Oregon 97741