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June 1999

BLM Hiking: Land of Opportunity

If you look beyond the occasional cow, you'll find the BLM has lots of ruggedly beautiful land to offer. No mining, no oil rigs, just lots of solitude.

Channeled Scablands, Washington

If your thighs don’t like switchbacks, head for this region of rolling hills and shallow canyons, which BLM Recreation Specialist Diane Priebe calls “a little Monument Valley.” This 10,000-acre patchwork of public lands was once blanketed by miles of lava beds. During and immediately following the most recent Ice Age, cataclysmic floods rushing from present-day Montana to the Pacific Ocean scoured the land like huge pads of steel wool, carving out wide channels, coulees, buttes, potholes, and basalt towers. Hence, the name Channeled Scablands.

Today the flatlands are covered by sagebrush steppe seasoned with rabbit brush, bitter brush, and a kaleidoscope of spring wildflowers. The canyon bottoms hide creeks and lakes that support coyotes, bobcats, and the rare sage grouse, as well as a variety of flora. There are few maintained trails but plenty of open country with elevations averaging about 2,500 feet.

Location: About 57 miles west of Spokane. Take US 2 west from Spokane for 30 miles to Davenport, then head south on WA 28 to Harrington on the eastern edge of the Scablands.

Hiking it: Fairly level cross-country hiking is the rule here, except for occasional traverses of deep channels. Know your way around a compass and topo. Many of these public land parcels abut private property in a checkerboard fashion, so check with BLM officials about access rights and be sure to respect them. The Scablands are remote, but don’t be surprised to crest a ridge and see a power pole or cow off in the distance. Portions are open to grazing and off-roading; call the office below and ask how to avoid these areas. A number of lakes popular with anglers dot the area, but take all the drinking water you’ll need, especially in summer when temperatures top out above 90ºF.

Resources: BLM, 1103 N. Farcher St., Spokane, WA 99212; (509) 536-1200. You’ll need 1:100,000-scale maps Ritzville and Coulee Dam. Also, 7.5-minute topos Coffee Pot Lake, Irby, Odessa, Pacific Lake, Rocklyn SW, Sullivan Lake, and Swanson Lake.

Thatcher and Eden Valley Wilderness Study Areas


When you come here, bask in all that these adjoining lands have to offer: old-growth conifer forests, oak savannas, bugling tule elk, and steelhead and king salmon runs for starters. When you get home, join the California Wilderness Coalition’s effort to win wilderness designation for these 23,000 acres, plus 47,000 more in the adjacent Mendocino National Forest. (Check the Web site at

It’s easy to see why it’s a battle worth fighting. There are no fewer than seven diverse habitats within Thatcher and Eden Valley that support an incredible variety of flora and fauna, including unique 50-foot Sargent cypress trees, river otters, fields of rare native bunchgrass, and bald eagles. Intrepid hikers can drop from

chaparral-scented ridgelines at 6,500 feet into the verdant watersheds of Thatcher Creek and the National Wild and Scenic Eel River.

Location: About 130 miles northeast of San Francisco. Take US 101 north just past Ukiah to CA 20 east. Turn northeast onto Potter Valley Road to Lake Pillsbury. Pick up dirt road M1, which runs along Estel Ridge toward Bald Mountain and the study area boundary.

Hiking it: Abandoned jeep roads on Long Doe Ridge and Horse Pasture Ridge meander in all directions and head deep into the backcountry. Artesian wells and vernal pools are found throughout the area, and creeks and rivers usually run year-round.

Resources: BLM, 2550 N. State St., Ukiah, CA 95482; (707) 468-4000. A map of Mendocino National Forest is handy to have, as are the Covelo 1:100,00 topo and 7.5-minute quads Brushy Mountain, Covelo East, Hull Mountain, Jamison Ridge, Newhouse Ridge, Sanhedri Mountain, and Thatcher Ridge.

Matt Purdue is author of Adventure Guide to Nevada (1998; Hunter Publishing; 800-255-0343; $15.95).

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