The Tom McCall Preserve on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge is a wildflower wonderland. Dozens of showy wildflower species dot the rolling plateau and hillsides of the preserve in spring and early summer.
The Nature Conservancy owns the 231 acre preserve while the adjacent lands are owned and managed by the BLM and Oregon State Parks.
This place is protected primarily because it is home to over 300 plant species, several of which are species of special concern.
For example, the beautiful Columbia Desert Parsley (Lomatium columbianum) is common on the preserve, but rare in general.
Why is there so much botanical biodiversity at this location?
The answer is that plants that prefer the cool, wet conditions of forests in the western Columbia Gorge coexist with those that prefer the warm, dry grasslands to the east. This means that the Tom McCall Preserve is in a transition zone between two distinct ecological regions.
The great wildflower displays occur from March through June, with a progression of different species dominating the landscape in turn as the weeks pass.
There are a couple of short, but very pleasant hiking trails winding through the preserve. If you go, remember to stay on the trails, don’t pick any flowers, and leave the dog at home. These are the regulations of the Nature Conservancy.
Oh, and watch out for poison oak, ticks, and rattlesnakes. Poison oak is especially common on the preserve. And be prepared for windy conditions!
I highly recommend a visit to the Tom McCall Preserve. It’s a great place to get lost in the beauty of our native flora and in the majesty of the Columbia Gorge.