Spring abloom in Whychus preserve

April 29, 2013
Spring abloom in Whychus preserve

Land trust eyes six miles of river for restoration of natural features

By Hillary Borrud

The trail was dry and dusty as a group of hikers set out Sunday morning to explore the Deschutes Land Trust’s Whychus Canyon Preserve.

Despite the apparently parched earth, there were abundant signs of spring along the path. Sand lilies, gold stars and creeping phlox covered patches of ground alongside the trail.

Mary Crow, a retired librarian who lives in Sisters, called out the names of some of the wildflowers as the group meandered through the preserve. Crow is a volunteer naturalist who leads hikes for the land trust and on Sunday, she led roughly a dozen people on the hike through the Whychus Canyon Preserve. Crow said her goal is to inspire others to be good stewards of the environment.

The Deschutes Land Trust purchased the 450-acre parcel in 2010. In 2012, the organization completed a loop trail that is roughly 5 miles long and removed many of the young juniper trees in the canyon, where they were sucking up large quantities of water and might have crowded out ponderosa pines.

Crow said the land trust left old-growth junipers. Volunteers are also removing invasive weeds from the property and Ginny Elliott, a volunteer with the trust’s “weed warriors" program, said they plan to pull spotted knapweed on May 7.

The tour on Sunday skipped the portion of the loop trail that dips into the canyon and follows the creek. Instead, the group followed a section of the Santiam Trail wagon road through federal land, then cut over to the Deschutes Land Trust trail. The hikers eventually arrived a viewpoint with humongous boulders, where they could look down into the canyon and catch a glimpse of Whychus Creek. Then, the group followed the Deschutes Land Trust trail past the remains of an old homestead and back to the parking lot.

Crow said the Deschutes Land Trust is trying to acquire a parcel of land adjacent to the preserve this year. That would give the trust access to six continuous miles of Whychus Creek, where it could restore natural pools and meanders that the Army Corps of Engineers removed in the 20th century to stop flooding.

Zak Boone, associate director of the Deschutes Land Trust, said the preserve is increasingly popular with hikers. “It’s become a quick favorite with land trust members and folks that are out there," Boone said. “It underscores why we’re trying to preserve these properties so we can get more folks out enjoying the land and protecting the special places of Central Oregon."

The public is welcome to hike the Whychus Canyon Preserve. Dogs are allowed if they are on leashes. No bikes, horses or motorized vehicles are permitted.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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