The BLM’s 6,000-acre North Bank Habitat Management Area above Whistlers Bend on the North Umpqua River, once a sprawling cattle ranch, was purchased to offer a haven to one of only two remaining populations of Columbian white-tailed deer (the other is on the lower Columbia River). This subspecies of deer was virtually wiped out by Euro-American settlers as they inhabited the same rich river bottoms and foothills coveted by early farmers and loggers. The deer was listed as endangered on the lower Columbia in 1968 and the Douglas County population was recognized and also listed in 1978, when a total of fewer than 1,000 individuals remained. After decades of conservation efforts, the deer’s status has been downgraded to threatened on the lower Columbia, with the larger population near Roseburg now delisted. They are now subject to controlled hunting in the fall, with hunters’ fees contributing to their conservation.
These are ridges of oak and madrone savannas rising from the North Umpqua to the rolling summit ridgeline of Round Timber Mountain. I did a loop beginning from the west trailhead; the main parking area, the Comstock Trailhead is open to the public only Friday through Monday. The trails are all old ranch roads and jeep tracks. The oaks were all leafed out and the madrones in full bloom. Poison oak runs rampant and dense here, especially under a canopy, with free standing plants up to eight feet tall. I picked up one tick, which managed to get its hypostome into my ankle before I yanked it out.
I used the track up Chasm Creek to reach another trail that rose to the ridge of Round Timber Mountain, and then hiked up and down along the grassy track to the high point, from which there were views down to the North Umpqua and Scott Mountain to the east.
I then took the Middle Ridge down and peeled off down the West Fork of Jackson Creek to reach Soggy Bottoms and the deserted Comstock Trailhead .
It was on the West Barn Trail that I saw my only white-tailed deer. They had been taking advantage of the shade offered by the partially collapsed West Barn, but were quite skittish. One of them was sporting a tracking collar. From the West Barn, I reached the Middle Ridge gain and then walked down the Blacktail Deer Road to the trailhead. The loop was about 11 miles, 2,100’ elevation gain on a glorious spring day.
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