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North Fork John Day Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
North Fork John Day Wilderness lake.jpg
A lake in the wilderness
Map showing the location of North Fork John Day Wilderness
Map showing the location of North Fork John Day Wilderness
Location Grant / Umatilla counties, Oregon, USA
Nearest city Granite, Oregon
Coordinates 44°55′01″N 118°35′03″W / 44.91694°N 118.58417°W / 44.91694; -118.58417Coordinates: 44°55′01″N 118°35′03″W / 44.91694°N 118.58417°W / 44.91694; -118.58417
Area 121,352 acres (49,109 ha)
Established 1984
Governing body United States Forest Service

The North Fork John Day Wilderness is a wilderness area within the Umatilla and Wallowa–Whitman national forests in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon.[1][2]

The wilderness consists of four separate units: the main 85,000-acre (34,000 ha) unit of the North Fork John Day drainage; the Greenhorn Unit to the south; the Tower Mountain Unit to the north; and the Baldy Creek Unit to the east. Approximately 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) of the Vinegar Hill-Indian Rock Scenic Area also lie within the wilderness.[3]

The North Fork John Day Wilderness is located within the larger Elkhorn Fire Management Area, and the area's fire plan allows for the use of Prescribed Natural Fire under certain circumstances.[2]


Scraggly vegetation in the wilderness

The North Fork John Day Wilderness is composed of rolling benchlands, steep ridges, alpine lake basins, and the granite outcrops of the Greenhorn Mountains at an elevation of 8,100 feet (2,500 m). It encompasses two entire subranges of the Blue Mountains—the Greenhorn Mountains and the ragged Elkhorn Mountains.[3] A continuous vegetative canopy covers most of the land, including dense virgin stands of conifer species like Douglas-fir, white fir, western larch and lodgepole pine.[2] The headwaters of several waterways are located in the wilderness, including Bull Creek, Baldy Creek, and Crawfish Creek, as well as the North Fork John Day River, 39 miles (63 km) of which is designated Wild and Scenic.[2][3]


The granite and sedimentary rock that makes up much of the North Fork John Day Wilderness reflect the Blue Mountains' history as a volcanic island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean some 250 million years ago. As the crust of the earth shifted, the archipelago collided with the advancing North American Plate approximately 200 million years ago. Later, bubbles of less dense granitic rock, or batholiths, rose through the sediment to form the granite cores of the Elkhorn and Greenhorn ranges. Columbia River basalt flows buried the region some 15 million years ago, the remains of which can be seen today in the rimrock on the benchlands in the western portion of the wilderness.[4]


The North Fork John Day drainage bustled with gold and silver mining operations in the mid-19th century, and traces of the thousands of miners who labored here are still visible. Old mining structures, building foundations, and dredged ditches and trash dumps left behind by the miners are all visible. Many of these features are being left in place to naturally disappear over time, consistent with the Wilderness Act's purpose to have no permanent human works in wilderness areas.[3][2] The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge once excavated the riverbeds in the area, and is now restored as a state heritage site in Sumpter.[4]


The North Fork John Day Wilderness is known for its big game and anadromous fish habitat. Dominant wildlife species include Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer.[5] There is currently an elk herd estimated to number beyond 50,000 and a herd of mule deer that reportedly exceeds 150,000.[3] Bull elk here sometimes weigh more than 800 pounds (360 kg) and sport antlers spreading beyond 5 feet (1.5 m). There are over 130 miles (210 km) of perennial streams in the wilderness, 40 miles (64 km) of which provide spawning habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead.[5] Other wildlife in the North Fork John Day Wilderness include mountain goats and black bears.[2]


Primary recreational activities in the North Fork John Day Wilderness are hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, rafting, kayaking, wildlife watching, and rock climbing the granite cliffs of the Elkhorn Mountains. There are roughly 133 miles (214 km) of hiking trails in the wilderness, three of which are National Recreation Trails.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "North Fork John Day Wilderness: Umatilla". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "North Fork John Day Wilderness: Wallowa-Whitman". Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f North Fork John Day Wilderness - Wilderness.net
  4. ^ a b Sullivan, William L. (2002). Thurman, Paula (Ed.), ed. Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas (3rd ed.). Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books. 
  5. ^ a b North Fork John Day Wilderness, Oregon - GORP

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Fork_John_Day_Wilderness — Please support Wikipedia.
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15 news items

East Oregonian (subscription)
Thu, 16 Jul 2015 00:07:30 -0700

Under the close scrutiny of forest service employees, a charred section of timber near the boundary of the rugged North Fork John Day Wilderness is experiencing a rebirth. The 1986 South Fork Fire gobbled up 6,400 acres. But while the timber is showing ...

East Oregonian (subscription)

East Oregonian (subscription)
Fri, 22 May 2015 20:00:54 -0700

The way Silas Davidson sees it, this soggy weather likely means more trees are falling over trails and campsites in the nearby North Fork John Day Wilderness. It won't be long before summer recreation is in full swing, meaning now is the time to start ...


Sat, 06 Jul 2013 00:18:45 -0700

The North Fork John Day Wilderness was created by Congress in 1984. The wilderness includes 121,800 acres in four units, the largest of which, at 85,000 acres, encompasses the North Fork drainage itself. Although relatively small compared with the ...
East Oregonian (subscription)
Mon, 16 Mar 2015 19:37:30 -0700

Campbell said the group also hopes to volunteer clearing trails on the North Fork John Day Wilderness later in the spring or summer. District Ranger Ian Reid said he appreciates the foundation's willingness to help on projects, and plans to reach out ...

OPB News (blog)

OPB News (blog)
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:41:15 -0700

The Mount Ireland Complex wildfires located in the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area sparked over the weekend, the largest of the fires being between 10 and 15 acres. There are several closures in the area including Trail #1603/1603A from Baldy Creek ...

Watchdog Wire

Watchdog Wire
Mon, 10 Nov 2014 10:00:00 -0800

Somewhere on Highway 395, between Long Creek and Ukiah in the North Fork John Day Wilderness—a half hour since we'd seen another vehicle, no cellphone service, and a hundred miles to the nearest shopping mall—I turned to Phil and said: “Everyone ...
The Oregonian - OregonLive.com
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 06:38:43 -0700

A jagged line of mountains looks like so many shark's teeth west of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon, between Baker City and North Powder. These are the Elkhorns, the highest among several uplifts collectively called the Blue Mountains. Across the ...
The Oregonian - OregonLive.com
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 20:35:10 -0700

The Mount Ireland Complex, which encompasses several fires in the Mount Ireland/North Fork John Day Wilderness area, has burned about 30 acres since it started Saturday. Oregon forest fires have impacted recreation, so make sure to check ahead before ...

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