Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-17

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1808
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-17

Post by bobcat » April 10th, 2017, 6:26 pm

I spent a day fashioning a loop around the Klickitat State Wildlife Area before turkey season begins on April 15th. Before the gobbler shoot starts, Old Headquarters Road is gated, so I parked near there and walked down the road. This area has some of the most extensive oak forests In Washington, scurrying with gray squirrels and bounding with deer, but also there are wide open parklands on plateau lips and flowery slopes dropping steeply to the Klickitat 1,500 feet below.
Old Headquarters Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
I left the road and hiked towards the southern boundary fence, getting views across the high plateau to the Columbia Hills. Up here, there was a stiff, cold wind blowing with some shelter behind rock outcroppings. I dropped steeply down, using deer trails, to a bench above the river.
View to Stacker Butte across the Klickitat Canyon, south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
View to Klickitat-Little Klickitat confluence, south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
View to Klickitat River, south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Piper's desert parsley (Lomatium piperi), south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Parsley and ponderosas, south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Then I followed an old farm track to the site of a homestead, dismantled in the 1950s or 60s, at a series of springs. There are a couple of wood shacks still standing here – a pumphouse and what may be a springhouse. The foundation of the homestead sprouts daffodils, and a couple of pieces of old farm equipment rust in the grass. Up a slope in the oaks is a large, open-sided shed.
Rusting plow, south border, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Pumphouse and cistern, Homestead Springs, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Crop seeder, Homestead Springs, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
I then struck out cross-country and was fortunate to pick up a narrow abandoned track that took me down into oak woods and a deeply incised creek, which I’ll call Homestead Creek. The track peters out on the other side of the creek, but it was a short distance up to the 4WD Soda Springs Road.
On the old track, Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Oaks toothwort (Cardamine nuttallii), Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Cut-leaf violet (Viola sheltonii), Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Deer skull, Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Walking up the old track, Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
I hiked down the road across open slopes and into an extensive oak forest, carpeted with glacier lilies, descending to the bottomlands at the Klickitat River. There are no Soda Springs to see here: they are unreachable on the other side of the river alongside the abandoned Champion Haul Road. I touched base with the rushing Klickitat and then returned up the road to a spot with a clear view up a steep open slope.
On Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Midget phlox (Microsteris gracilis), Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
In the oaks, Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum), Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
At Klickitat, Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
I began my ascent on a slope that will be brilliant with blooming balsamroot in a couple of weeks, managing to find a deer trail that snaked its way vertically up the rise. Far below me, I noticed a red pickup inching its way down Soda Springs Road and into the oaks. It wasn’t going to get very far: the road is unmaintained and there were several trees down. I reached the plateau proper and kept out in the open, hiking along the edge of the woods to pass a curious contraption called a wildlife guzzler, which stores rainwater for thirsty critters in a partially covered tank. When I got to Homestead Creek’s deep valley, I followed deer trails into the oaks and across a meadow festooned with loose strands of barbed wire before descending to Soda Springs Road where a creek crosses it.
Balsamroot slope, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Deer trail, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
On the plateau, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Wildlife guzzler, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii), Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Ponderosa meadow, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
View to creek crossing, Soda Springs Road, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
I walked a few yards up the road and then cut down to cross Homestead Creek before scrambling up a slope and across an open meadow adjacent to Old Headquarters Road. I veered away from the road through a grove of ponderosas and continued walking along the grassy lip of the plateau above the canyon. After passing my third carcass of the day and stirring up yet another skittish herd of deer (I must have seen 50 – 60 in total on the day), I turned in to Headquarters Road and walked back to the car.
Columbia desert parsley (Lomatium columbianum), Homestead Creek, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Ponderosa meadow, Soda Springs Unit (1).jpg
View to Stacker Butte, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Winterkill, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Deer in the meadow, Soda Springs Unit.jpg
Here's a rough sketch of where I went: about 11 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain - red = road walking, light blue = cross-country. The place will be ablaze with wildflowers in a couple of weeks, but the turkey hunters will also be out in force (The season lasts until May 31st), and your rustlings through the oaks may attract unwelcome attention. Also, of course, the area is a mecca for deer hunters in the fall.
SodaSpringsMap.png

User avatar
mjirving
Posts: 848
Joined: July 5th, 2011, 10:40 am

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by mjirving » April 10th, 2017, 9:54 pm

Cool, thanks for the Columbia Desert Parsley ID as I saw some of that this weekend at Rowena Crest and didn't know what it was.

Mike (aka GoalTech)

User avatar
drm
Posts: 4812
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: The Dalles, OR
Contact:

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by drm » April 11th, 2017, 6:32 am

Well, nice to have a new place to add to my list. I wonder just how crowded it is with turkey hunters in the spring.

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1808
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by bobcat » April 11th, 2017, 7:04 am

drm wrote:I wonder just how crowded it is with turkey hunters in the spring.
I've only been here once before - after turkey season began and on a weekend. A few hunters were up in the oak woods although there were two or three rigs down on the homestead bench. I talked to one of them about a gobbler we heard down by the river. I did not see/hear a single turkey on this trip. The place is beautiful from about mid-April to mid-May (wildflowers), but I'd stay out in the open as much as possible once the season begins although I think the turkey hunters are pretty responsible about what they draw a bead on.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 11926
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by retired jerry » April 11th, 2017, 7:26 am

maybe it's easy for hunters to distinguish between Turkeys and humans? Especially if you stay on trails.

Bear season? That would be a different story :)

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1808
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by bobcat » April 11th, 2017, 6:58 pm

retired jerry wrote:Especially if you stay on trails.
Just to be clear, there are no human-constructed trails here although some of the deer trails are major highways.

Webfoot
Posts: 839
Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by Webfoot » April 11th, 2017, 10:41 pm

Interesting area. Thanks for making me aware of it. I think I'll take my chances during hunting season and drive those roads; it's a fairly large area and I can't put out the hiking mileage most of you can.

User avatar
acorn woodpecker
Posts: 223
Joined: January 4th, 2013, 8:35 pm

Re: Soda Springs Unit, Klickitat State Wildlife Area 04-08-1

Post by acorn woodpecker » April 14th, 2017, 6:28 pm

I've been wanting to check this area out for some time. There exists a strong desire for me to be among wide expanses of oak woodland, particularly in the spring. Thanks for this report! I just hope to, in the future, go before turkey hunting season begins...

Post Reply