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Continuing Education Course Catalog > Quest

Exploring Malheur and Steens   

Plan for a great adventure in natural history! Learn about the geology, ecology, and biology of Steens Mountain and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This will happen in some of the most spectacular eastern Oregon landscapes.

Class Summary: Eastern Oregon is dominated by igneous rocks, like the volcanics we will see at Diamond Craters. We will study how glaciers dissected Steens Mountain. Considerable variation in climate exists in eastern Oregon, in part due to elevation differences (our highest point will be at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain).

Such a range of climate leads to a great diversity of flora and fauna. Malheur Wildlife Refuge is well-known for its great number of bird species. Class members will learn about the ecology and communities of native plants and animals across the high desert. There will also be an evening walk to find the nocturnal animals of the region.

We will travel through the drainage basin of the upper John Day River on the way to saline Harney Lake and a view of the Alvord Desert, both characteristic of the internal drainage of the Great Basin. Our northernmost and southernmost stops, respectively, are Battle Mountain Summit atop the Blue Mountains (an anticlinal uplift in northeastern Oregon) and Wildhorse Lake atop Steens Mountain (a Basin and Range horst in southeastern Oregon).

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