One of the most fascinating things about this part of Northeastern Oregon is the diverse landscape. The towering Eagle Cap Wilderness and its majestic mountains fill up the skyline and they quickly give way to vast prairie land which extends all of the way to Hells Canyon which is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon.
We heard a great deal about the Zumwalt Prairie so we packed a picnic and headed out to explore. We began the 30 plus mile trek on a dirt road with the sun shining and the grasses blowing in the wind. The prairie used to the be the hunting grounds for Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians.
As we drove along we noticed countless hawks flying over head and hunting from the fields. There are also a few remnants of the old homesteads from the original settlers in this area.
We continued on and we saw a herd of elk grazing up on the ridge. We leave the grasslands and find our way into a dense forest. The wildflowers are in full bloom. We were told about a certain spot to dig wild onions so we stopped along the way. It’s a little early in the season but we did manage to find some. Apparently, as it becomes fall the onions get quite hot in flavor.
We really had no idea what we were looking for. The only description we were given was a leaf base with a single stalk and a flower. There were several of those around so it made things a little tricky. After a couple of tries we discovered this purple flower with seeds in the top and quickly discovered an onion at the base. Success! We took a bag full home and added them to dinner. They were quite good.
Just beyond the onion patch is an Indian Village Grove. Large oval scars on these ponderosa pines give lasting evidence of the traditional spring camp of the Nez Perce people. In the early spring, the indians would peel the outer bark, using the cambium layer as supplemental food and perhaps as medicine and weaving fibers. These scars were made in the late 1800′s and were probably created using metal implements acquired by trade.
The wildflowers surrounding the grove were just beautiful!
Our drive continues to the Buckhorn Lookout. This overlooks Hells Canyon and down to the Imnaha River. Hells Canyon is on average 7,900 ft deep and 10 miles wide.
Our drive back to town gives us a beautiful view of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.