Central and Southeast Oregon offer some spectacular wildlife photography. Among numerous great locations I visited, Summer Lake was one of my favorites. This is one of the best places in Oregon to view migrating waterfowl and other shore and waterbirds. The area consists of a large marsh and upland area, along with an eight mile tour route. The refuge hosts over 40 different mammals, and over 280 species of birds!! This is an extremely important location for migrating birds during both Spring and Fall migrations as a resting point en route to their final destination. The colors of the arid landscape make for lovely earth-toned backdrops to your photographs, one of the most welcome attributes for this wildlife photographer!
Heading East, you can venture over Hart mountain into the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. I spent three nights camping on the top of this massive fault block ridge that abruptly rises 3/4 of a mile above the Warner Valley floor. This is an EXTREMELY rugged area that offers a diverse mix of terrain and habitat types, four-wheel drive is a necessity here! Hart Mountain is home to over 300 species of wildlife, including Pronghorn Antelope, California Bighorn sheep, Mule deer, and Sage grouse.
If you continue East over Hart Mountain, you will come off of the plateau into the town of French Glen. I use the term “town” very lightly here. 🙂 It is roughly one block long, and consists of a gas station, a few homes, and a restaurant/motel. Important to note here: when you are travelling in this part of Oregon, you need to pay attention to your gas usage VERY closely! Gas stations are EXTREMELY sparse, and mileage must continually be accounted for, and refueling scheduled appropriately.
Additional options not to be missed, are of course Malheur National Wildlife Refuge which is located 30 miles South of Burns, Oregon, and if you want to head South from French Glen instead, you can venture down to Fields, Oregon, an equally small and desolate town…but fantastic for bird photography!
Eastern Oregon offers a wealth of photographic opportunities for the adventurous photographer. Although the landscapes tend to be a bit on the rugged side, the payoff is one of a kind. So get outside and take the road less traveled in Eastern Oregon, and see what wild beauty awaits you and your camera.