Pickett Canyon: South Fork Crooked River Wilderness Study Area

Found near the geographic center of Oregon, the South Fork Crooked River Wilderness Study Area (WSA) offers high desert beauty and solitude. Currently there are no official trails through the South Fork Crooked River WSA, but cross country travel is relatively easy. I had decided to start my hike at Furnace Waterhole, which was an adventure to reach. A high clearance vehicle is necessary because of the large rocks that you must drive over- you will not be able to make it here in a passenger car. There was also several large and fairly deep puddles that would have stopped a low clearance vehicle. If you don't have a high clearance vehicle available to you, you could park ~3 miles before Furnace Waterhole and walk in.
Furnace Waterhole 
Heading down Pickett Canyon
Unfortunately because of the long drive I started hiking down Pickett Canyon about an hour before dark. This canyon was pretty easy to make my way down, but there was some pretty sketchy patches of ice. When I reached the confluence of Pickett Creek and the South Fork Crooked River I spotted a nice campsite among a few western junipers.

Campsite near the confluence Pickett Creek and South Fork Crooked River

Sunrise looking south from the confluence of Pickett Creek and South Fork Crooked River
After studying my topographic map I decided to hike upriver for a little over a mile and then make my way up a canyon to South Dagus Reservoir. The ground was frozen and ice covered nearly everything, which made for an incredible sunrise. Walking along the river was fairly easy because of the trail made by both domesticated and wild animals.

Sunrise on the South Fork Crooked River

Heading up a canyon towards South Dagus Reservoir
As I neared the top of the canyon near South Dagus Reservoir, I came across a fence that has a gate near the southwestern corner. From the reservoir I simply walked across the flat back towards Furnace Waterhole. Along the flat there were several herds of mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and wild horses.

Looking back down towards the South Fork Crooked River

South Dagus Reservoir

Wild horses in the South Fork Crooked River Wilderness Study Area
If you're looking for high desert solitude the South Fork Crooked River WSA will definitely deliver. This area should definitely be designated a Wilderness Area. 

Well defined 'game' trail

Expansive views looking towards the Gerry Mountain Wilderness Study Area
Directions from Bend: Follow Highway 20 east for 51.3 miles to Van Lake Road, turn left, follow for 19.3 miles, turn right onto Bear Creek-Fife road, follow for 1.6 miles, follow for 8.5 miles turn left onto unsigned Upper Table Road, follow for 3 miles, Furance Waterhole is on the left. If you reach the ranch on GI Road turn around and back track about two miles until you see a small road with an access allowed sign.

Hike Distance: 6 miles round trip

Hike Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 500 Feet

Trailhead Elevation: 4,500 Feet

Usage: Light

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

Fees: None

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