Canyon Wilderness in Washington

Crooked Creek Ridges

Southeastern Washington’s Blue Mountains are much more a canyon-dissected plateau than a standard mountain range, carved by erosion from the giant stack of Grande Ronde basalt flows. (Indeed, this whole region makes much more geographic sense once you realize that it’s a canyonlands peppered with mountain ranges rather than vice versa.) In late spring, my son and I found three days of wonderful solitude in the far southeastern corner of Washington. It’s great country for wandering, and I hope to wander here a lot more.

Eli hiking in:

Three Forks Trail Eli

From the canyon rim where we started, we had some views of the still snowbound Wallowas:

Wallowas from Wenaha

Pausing for a water break, we realized we were not alone:

Herd in Gully

Some had tracking collars:

One Collar

The area was cool and green with spring, but is obviously a very fire influenced landscape. The Grizzly Bear Fire in 2015 was a big one and caused a lot of issues for trails in this wilderness, though we were only skirting the edge of its footprint.

Burned Tree

Looking south into Oregon and the main Wenaha River canyon, the fire impacts were clearly evident.

Wenaha Canyon

We camped near a somewhat labyrinthine confluence area of several major creeks. We spent a very pleasant day ambling a little ways up a couple of these forks, and could easily have gone much farther into this maze of forested canyons.

Melton Crooked Confluence

Arrowleaf balsamroot was blooming vigorously, along with many other flowers:

Arrowleaf Bouquets

Though their banks were jungly and often hard to reach, the big creeks were stars of the show, clear and swift.

Crooked Creek Foliage


Between Stone and Sky

These low canyon, open-forested, stream-laced wildernesses of the Inland Northwest can really feel like paradise! I’ll definitely be returning to explore more waterways and some of the higher ridges.

Ridgetop Garden

6 thoughts on “Canyon Wilderness in Washington

  1. Wonderful photos! I especially enjoyed the bighorn sheep images. What a treat to share with your son. It looks like your finding your groove in Washington. It has a lot to offer but I am a happy ex patriot in Nevada. ;-)

    • Thanks! Yeah, we’re loving Washington’s far east (Cascades are nice to visit, but I just don’t think they’re my thing). I sure do miss the Great Basin and real biodiverse desert, but it’s really nice to be spending time by wild rivers and big creeks again.

    • Thank you! We heard some distant gunshots from spring turkey hunters, but didn’t actually see anybody. The whole area definitely felt lightly used.

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