Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness on the John Day
In 2011, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkely reintroduced legislation to create the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Areas in Eastern Oregon. If passed, the legislation would protect almost 18,000 acres as wilderness along the John Day River, which flows freely along its entire length. The river provides habitat for diverse species, including wild steelhead and Chinook salmon, and the area is home to stunning basalt cliffs and rolling hills of high desert juniper and sagebrush. It's no surprise then that the John Day provides one of the most spectacular multi-day boating trips in the region. American Whitewater supports the proposal, and sent a letter of thanks to the Oregon Senators this week for their efforts to protect the area and bring these areas into public ownership.
Currently, federal lands in the area are scattered in a checkerboard pattern, dispersed with private land in between. This poses a challenge for both private landowners and people who recreate in the area alike, creating the potential for conflict. River runners are required to carry a detailed map to identify where camping is allowed. The proposed legislation will consolidate the fragemented federal land through land exchanges with private landowners, bringing four miles of land along the river into public ownership. The John Day attracts river runners from throughout the region and the country, and the proposal will enhance their experience in many ways, including increasing opportunities for camping along the river. The river provides excellent opportunities for families to enjoy the outdoors, and the legislation will protect the legacy of the river for future generations.