Donner und Blitzen Wild and Scenic River
Photo by Greg Shine, BLM.
From its headwaters on Steens Mountain to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge boundary, the Donner und Blitzen Wild and Scenic River offers breathtakingly beautiful scenic glaciated canyons, unique ecosystems, and exceptional wild trout fisheries.
The Donner und Blitzen River, known as the Blitzen River and its tributaries, is located approximately 70 miles south of Bums, Oregon. The river and its tributaries originate on the west slopes of the Steens Mountain and flow in a northwesterly direction before entering the 185,000-acre Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is dependent upon the water generated on the Steens. Much of the river's length is situated in deeply carved canyons. The preliminary boundary configuration includes 22,625 acres.
The designated river corridor for the Donner und Blitzen River contains a diversity of landforms and vegetation that captures the attention of the viewer. The river and its tributaries pass through several vegetation zones which are the result of climatic factors such as temperature, elevation and precipitation.
The progression, from the lower sagebrush/bunchgrass community to the upper subalpine zone, gives depth and variety to the different settings from which the viewer experiences the scenery. It is one of the greatest qualities of this river system. In the upper elevations, river users have an opportunity for a primitive experience viewing textbook examples of glaciated canyons and deep basalt formations of the main Blitzen River. These view sheds are largely untouched and in a natural condition.
Portions of the river system fall within the Steens Mountain Wilderness. With such a diversity of landscapes within a river system, the visual qualities result in an outstandingly remarkable value.
A use survey, conducted in 1988 for the Steens Mountain Recreation Lands (which includes the Blitzen River and its tributaries), showed that Steens Mountain is visited by recreationists of geographically diverse origins. Sixty-four percent of the visitors to the Steens are from western Oregon, 19 percent from eastern Oregon, and 17 percent from outside states such as Washington, Idaho, California, and Nevada.
Steens Mountain is a destination area due to its unique resource characteristics and associated recreation opportunities. Visitors travel long distances to recreate because of the following attributes:
The river canyons offer high scenic quality in the form of glaciated canyons, along with a variety of diverse vegetation due to climatic conditions.
The river provides a rare 2 to 4-day backpack trip or horseback experience for individuals with moderate skill levels. Portions of the Oregon Desert Trail are within sections of the river canyons.
Existing recreation uses that are exceptional in quality include fishing, hunting, hiking, photography, wildlife, and scenic viewing. Due to the small size of the stream, the river segments are not used for boating.
The river first received wild and scenic designation on October 28, 1988, from its headwaters to the confluence with the South Fork Blitzen and Little Blitzen Rivers, including the Little Blitzen River, South Fork Blitzen River, Big Indian Creek, Little Indian Creek and Fish Creek tributaries.
On October 30, 2000, legislation expanded the river's wild and scenic designation to include Mud Creek from its source to its confluence with the Donner und Blitzen River; Ankle Creek from its headwaters to its confluence with the Donner und Blitzen River; and the South Fork of Ankle Creek from its source to its confluence with Ankle Creek.
To learn more about the river and plan a visit, contact the BLM Burns District office through one of the options below:
BLM Burns District
28910 Hwy 20 West
Hines, OR 97738