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Cline Buttes Resources of Interest Oregon/Washington BLM



Cline Buttes Resources of Interest

Birds of Prey

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Golden Eagles are larger than Bald Eagles in average height and wingspan. These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks. Golden Eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful talons to snatch up prey including rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and even larger mammals such as foxes or domestic dogs and cats.

Golden Eagles nest in high places including cliffs and large trees, building huge nests to which they may return for several breeding years. Females lay 1-4 eggs, and both parents incubate them for about 45 days. Typically, one or two young survive to fledge in about three months. Harassment by humans is a main cause for nest failure, and the reason for seasonal closures around nests.

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Prairie Falcons are about half the size of bald eagles, with wingspans averaging less than 40 inches. These small raptors have a distinct stripe through the face and eye, speckled chest and barred tail feathers. Their breeding cycle coincides with the most productive season of the shrub-steppe, when prey species are flourishing. During the breeding season, Prairie Falcons inhabit dry, open areas with protected cliffs and bluffs for nesting.

As riverfront properties have been developed over the past decade, the remaining habitat and nest sites on BLM managed lands have become increasingly important. The Maston trail system will be designed to minimize negative effects and disturbance to the most sensitive portions of the river canyon and to provide large connected patches of land for these raptors to use as foraging habitat.

Columbia Southern Irrigation System

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

In 1902, the Three Sisters Irrigation Company began constructing a gravity flow canal system designed to irrigate 27,000 acres of land - an impressive engineering feat considering the water had to flow over rolling terrain. This "Columbia Southern" development was used to promote settlement in Central Oregon in the U.S. and abroad.

The extensive irrigation network started with the construction of a 72-foot high dam and large reservoir to feed the canals - the remnants of which can still be seen on public lands near Sisemore and Couch Market roads. Construction spanned 12 years, and when the reservoir was filled to capacity in 1915... it drained. Water pressure and seepage pressure broke through an underlying fissure and thousands of gallons of water disappeared. As result of the failure and the high cost of repairing the reservoir, the project was dropped and the canal never held flowing water.

For more information, please visit the Bowman Museum in Prineville or the Deschutes History Museum in Bend.

Fractured Land Patterns

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

While not so much a "resource," the fractured land patterns of the Cline Buttes Recreation Area represent the land use history of much of the West. As designated lands (lands deliberately withdrawn from settlement), our National Forest and National Park Service lands are typically large, unbroken blocks of land. On the other hand, BLM-administered lands seem to be intermixed with many of the populated, private land holdings. The effects of this intermix of land ownership is well represented in Central Oregon and can lead to use conflicts when people fail to notice when their recreational activities take them across private property boundaries.

Most of the BLM's land is located in the American West and Alaska - its holdings comprise about one of every five acres in the West. Beginning in the late 18th century, the Federal government offered land settlement options as a means to populate the country, and much of the 1.8 billion acres of public land was either claimed for homesteads, railroads, and other private purposes or reserved as parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, military bases, or for other public uses. The BLM manages what remains - once-disregarded lands that today are prized for the array of values they contain.

The combination of these federal policies, success at farming practices, and much later federal policy to retain public lands in public ownership has resulted in the complex land pattern seen today in the area. For more information on the history of land settlement and the origins of the BLM, please visit:


Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Cline Buttes are a highly visible geographic landmark in central Oregon. From a low point of roughly 3,000 feet elevation, they rise steeply 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. The summits offer unimpeded views of the Cascade Mountains to the west and north, Gray Butte and Smith Rocks to the northeast, Powell Buttes to the southeast, and Newberry Volcano to the south.

Considered to be part of the Deschutes Formation, Cline Buttes are thought to have formed approximately 6 million years ago. Geologists refer to the buttes as rhyolite domes. Rhyolite is a silica-rich lava that is thick and pasty. It is this property that causes rhyolite to pile up into steep-sided domes. The Cline Buttes domes are similar to the dome that is actively growing in Mt. St. Helens. Active eruptions of rhyolite are very slow and may only move a few feet per day! Seldom does rhyolite flow more than a few miles from its source.

In contrast, basalt lava is thin and runny and can flow many miles from its source. That is why the basalt-covered landscape surrounding Cline Buttes is so flat. Take a look at the gentle slopes of Newberry volcano. The runny nature of basalt caused the flows to pile up as a broad, shield-shaped mountain. This is why geologists refer to volcanoes like Newberry as "shield" volcanoes. Some of the basalt flows from Newberry Volcano flowed all the way to the present day location of Redmond and beyond!

For more information on geology in Oregon, please visit:

Historic Roads

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Like many BLM lands in Central Oregon, there are vestiges of old road systems on BLM lands that once were the major travel-ways through the region. These road artifacts include bridge abutments in Deep Canyon and sections of the old asphalt two-lane highway on either side of the existing State Highway to the east of Deep Canyon in the CBRA.

However, long before State Highway 126 was constructed, a road created in 1879 linked lands west of the recreation area to Prineville, which was then the County seat at the time. This road, known as the A.J. Warrin Road, was a more direct route than the existing Santiam Route. For settlers, saving time and distance when they traveled to Prineville from the Sisters area for supplies was worth any fare charged by A.J. Warrin for use of the road. Portions of this historic road are visible today in a northeast to southwest direction across the CBRA, north of the large CEC powerlinee.

The A.J. Warrin Road went southwest of Black Butte, across Wychus Creek (formerly Squaw Creek) near present-day Sisters and east to Cloverdale. The route then went along the north side of Fryrear Butte and into the uplands between Deep Canyon and the Deschutes River where it crossed at Tetherow Crossing (also established in 1879). It met the Crooked River at Carmicle where it rejoined the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Military Road following the river to Prineville. Yellow paint on rocks, trees, and posts marked each mile along the route. Parts of it have been known as Tetherow Bridge Road, Redmond Sisters Road, South Redmond Sisters Road, and Jordan Road.

Documentation from the Crook County Road Records reads:

"Now, on this day was submitted to the Court a Petition of A.J. Warrin et al. praying for the location of a County road commencing at a point on the road leading from Prineville to Summer Lake three fourths of a mile west of main Street in said town thence down and on the South & West side of Crooked river to Mr. Carmicle house thence as herein prayed for to intersect the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain road at a point between Black Butte and Dry Creek..."

Other settlers, such as Oscar Maxwell, benefited by the Warrin Road. Recognizing a need, Maxwell established a stopping and a store for travelers and locals. His store and other services, including a smithy, became vital to the emerging community. Later the Cyrus family bought out Maxwell and ran the rest-stop until gradually, with changes in transportation and growth of nearby Bend and Redmond, the route came into disuse.

Human Influence and Early Settlement

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Many of the existing routes in the Maston Area are the troughs and berms from the irrigation canal system developed in the early 1900s as part of the Columbia Southern Irrigation Project. As a result, much of the modern recreational trail system was initially built by hand labor and horses between 1913 and 1920 in an early attempt to sell these lands for farming and settlement. The observant visitor may see the remains of rock walls, building foundations and canal berms throughout the area.

The area also contains the remnants of early attempts at farming in the form of old clearings. The remains of these clearings, created more than 100 years ago, can be seen along Newcomb Road. Look for areas without mature juniper trees and high amount of rabbitbrush. The future Maston Trailhead is located at the west edge of one of these clearings.

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Juniper Woodland and Sagebrush Steppe

The Maston area contains excellent representative the native juniper and sagebrush plant communities that flourish in the soft pumice soils in this area. Large, old-growth juniper trees may be 800 to 1,000 years old, and have deeply furrowed bark, distinctly rounded shapes, split trunks and lichen covered branches.

The Maston area is a great place to observe how small differences in slope and aspect help define plant communities in a desert environment - cooler north facing slopes will generally have much greater cover of native grasses, forbs and shrubs than south facing slopes. At a smaller scale, the north side of individual juniper trees may often have different densities or types of plants than the south side.


Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Sagebrush is a common species found in Central Oregon, often as part of a traditional "shrub-steppe" plant mix, which include a variety of native shrubs and grasses in an area of low rainfall. Sagebrush species are adapted to living in the high desert environment and use deep taproots to take advantage of light rainfall while remaining resilient to prolonged droughts.

Known in modern times for causing allergies and the pungent smell that fills the air after a rainstorm, one variety, basin big sagebrush was considered an important medicinal plant by native peoples. Teas made from the leaves were used to cure a great variety of ailments from stomach disorders to eye soreness, while breathing burned sagebrush fumes was used to treat headaches. The boughs were also burned for ceremonial rituals and air purification and are used in ceremonies and other rituals today. The bark was used to make dyes, and for rope and garments such as sandals, and the wood was a common fuel for cooking.

Sagebrush-steppe areas play an important role in supporting native mammal and bird communities, throughout the great basin. This plant community has increased importance in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area because it also serves as areas that deer and elk may move into during the winter season. The leaves of sagebrush are eaten by pronghorn antelope and deer, particularly in the winter when deep snow may hide other plants; however, the leaves contain volatile oils that keep cattle and horses from digesting their leaves.

In the Cline Buttes Recreation Area, this plant community is affected by fragmentation of roads and trails, competition with encroaching young juniper, fire exclusion, competition for available moisture, impacts from development, and the arrival of noxious weeds and exotic species such as cheatgrass.

Sensitive Species - Peck's Milkvetch

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

Peck's milkvetch is a BLM Sensitive Species, and also listed as a Threatened species by the State of Oregon. Since Cline Buttes represents the northern-most range of this plant that grows in the sandy, pumice soils left behind by the eruption of Mt. Mazama almost 8,000 years ago, a portion of the Cline Buttes Recreation Area was designated as part of the Peck's Milkvetch Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 2005. This designation added additional acreage to the existing ACEC which was identified to protect and maintain populations of this plant species.

The greatest concerns for this plant species are loss of habitat lands are developed and long-term trampling in areas with high recreation use - thus, the need for public land visitors to stay on designated trails and roads in the area.

Peck's milkvetch is a low-growing perennial with a deep taproot that helps it establish and survive in arid soil. The plant has reddish stems and compound leaves with 8-14 small leaflets per leaf stem. Since the stalk attaching the leaves to the stem of the plant remains year-round, the plant gets a skeletal look during winter dormancy.

Peck's milkvetch flowers from late May to July with small, cream or pale yellow flowers. As is typical of plants in this family, the flowers are shaped like butterflies. The seeds (fruit) look like very small pea pods.

Tumalo Canal Historical Highlights

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

The TCHA represents both the vision and failure of early business and settlement in Central Oregon. The following timeline demonstrates some of the key activities related the development of the canals:

  • 1902 - The Three Sisters Irrigation Company begins the project to bring water to 27,000 arid acres.
  • W.A. Laidlaw, for which the community of Tumalo was first named, was president of the company. He was hung in effigy later by irate Tumalo citizens!
  • 1903 - The Columbia Southern Irrigation Company was formed, and advertised the land and irrigation plan widely across the U.S. and abroad.
  • 1905 - The Columbia Southern Irrigating Company is formed to purchases capital stock and land in Oregon and ultimately acquires the rights to the canals.
  • Workers camps, known as "ditch camps," were located around the areas of canal construction and laborers earned between $2-4 daily for a 10-hour day.
  • Conditions were hard and men were blinded, maimed and killed by blasts and other work related tasks.  In the camps, mortality was high as babies and young children died of pneumonia, meningitis, and other diseases until families were banned from living at the project sites.
  • 1913 - The State took over project operations and a reservoir capable of holding 22,000 acre-feet of water was constructed together with dams, feed canals, and diversion works.
  • 1915 - Tumalo Reservoir is nearly filled to capacity in 1915 and fails; hundreds of thousands of gallons of water drain and disappear.
  • 1917 - Extensive geological surveys conclude that repair cost to the reservoir would be too prohibitive. The end result of the project is a system capable of irrigating only 8,000 acres.
  • Irrigation development provided more impetus to settlement in central Oregon than any other movement. Agricultural communities at Lone Pine, Powell Butte, Bend, Redmond, and Tumalo all grew rapidly, and as part of that growth was the development of towns serving the needs of agricultural communities.

For more information, please visit the Bowman Museum in Prineville or the Deschutes History Museum in Bend.

Winter Range

Cline Buttes Recreation Area

The northern portion of the Cline Buttes Recreation Area contains approximately 9,000 acres designated as a portion of the Metolius Mule Deer Winter Range. The majority of mule deer in central Oregon are part of migratory herds that move through the area or stop to use seasonal winter ranges. Local herds that reside year-round are usually located near agricultural areas.

In general, higher elevations are used as summer ranges and areas below 4,500 feet are considered winter range. Protecting seasonal corridors and routes by reducing human-deer conflicts can be critical to maintaining migratory habitat - therefore the western edge of the recreation area generally has lower trail densities, less motorized vehicle trails, and some seasonal closures. These trail use limitations in the Deep Canyon area benefit both deer and raptors that nest along the canyon.