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Public Law Designation

The 29,180-acre Oregon Badlands Wilderness was designated under Public Law 111-11, on March 30, 2009. The law also contained a number of other Oregon wilderness areas including: Lower White River, Soda Mountain Wilderness, and the Spring Basin Wilderness. Download a copy of Public Law 111-11 here (PDF).

Natural History

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness holds a number of remarkable and exciting landforms and geologic features. Most of the wilderness includes the rugged Badlands volcano, which has features of inflated lava. Windblown volcanic ash and eroded lava make up the sandy, light-colored soil that covers the low and flat places in these fields of lava. Dry River, active during each of several ice ages, marks the southeast boundary between two volcanic areas - Badlands volcano and the Horse Ridge volcanoes. Earth movements along the Brothers Fault Zone have faulted and sliced up the old Horse Ridge volcanoes, but not Badlands volcano.

The Badlands formed in an unusual way. The flow that supplied lava to the Badlands apparently developed a hole in the roof of its main lava tube. This hole became the source of lava that built a shield volcano that we call the Badlands (technically, a rootless shield volcano). An irregularly-shaped pit crater at the top of the shield marks the site where lava flowed in all directions to create the Badlands.

It is located about 1500 feet northeast of milepost 15 on Highway 20. Highway 20 traverses the shield along a straight, five-mile stretch between the intersections with an old section of Highway 20 (between mileposts 12.6 and 17.5). Soils in the Badlands were largely formed from ash associated with Mt. Mazama, now known as Crater Lake. A variety of wildlife species inhabit the area including yellow-bellied marmots, bobcat, mule deer, elk, and antelope. The southern portion of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness includes crucial winter range for mule deer. Avian species include prairie falcons and golden eagles.

NW Passage Content

Below are just a couple wilderness-related articles from our award-winning magazine—Northwest Passage Library! Check out these articles, or read any article from our entire catalog—or click on a magazine cover to grab an e-book of that entire issue to read on your tablet or smartphone.