Pilot Butte Park
This complex ecosystem nurtures a variety of plants and animals.
Vast, sage-covered plains begin at the eastern foot of the Pilot Butte and stretch dramatically to the east and south. This is Oregon's fabled "High Desert". The casual traveler is struck by the monotony of the landscape, but closer attention reveals it nurtures complex ecosystems that support a fascinating group of hardy plants and animals unique to the cold deserts of the Northern Great Basin. Western Juniper is the predominant tree while numerous varieties of sagebrush alternate with lush, native bunchgrasses to form a mosaic of plant communities. These plants form the basis for the delicate ecosystems that support the birds, animals, and people that dwell east of the Cascades.
Prior to Euro-American settlement, fire played an important role in the High Desert. Flames would sweep through on average every 20 to 40 years. These frequent fires reduced the numbers of sagebrush and junipers. Bunchgrasses are resilient and were increased by frequent fires. Human impacts over the past 100 years have led to an increase in shrubs and junipers. The large number of young junipers on the north flank of Pilot Butte are a result of this. Man's activities have also led to introduction of noxious weeds, which threaten to replace native species on the Butte and in Central Oregon. Wise management should allow us to maintain the Butte in a relatively natural state. For a closer look at a part of the High Desert ecology, be sure to walk Pilot Butte's Nature Trail located at the east edge of the summit.