04-May-2001 -- Having learned of the Confluence Project several weeks ago in a USA
Today article we soon checked out the web site and found one as yet “un-visited”
confluence that immediately caught our eye. Although we live in Western
Oregon in the lush Willamette Valley near the City of Salem, our family has long
enjoyed spending time in Eastern Oregon on our family ranch in Harney County
some 30 or so miles north of the town of Burns. The ranch is several miles
nearly due east of the N 44.00 W119.00 confluence and it seemed like a natural
one for us to seek out.
Leaving Salem at 4:00 AM on Friday May 4, 2001 we headed east on US Highway 20
over the Cascade Mountains into Central Oregon through the bustling City of Bend
and on across the Oregon High Desert to the relaxed town of Burns. Unlike much
of Western and Central Oregon, most of Eastern Oregon has avoided the influx of
character changing population growth over the past two decades. Hard working
cattle ranchers and loggers still dominate much of the sparsely populated
landscape in this arid part of Oregon.
Luckily it was a cool clear morning as we crossed the high desert plateau
between Bend and Burns and like always we saw a number of deer and antelope
(playing) grazing in the sagebrush and alfalfa. Reaching Burns at about 8:30
AM we picked up necessary grub and supplies at the Sentry Market and headed
north towards “our” confluence. If you don’t already have one you should pick
up a Malheur National Forest map at the local U.S. Forest Service office.
You’re gonna’ need it.
Just north of downtown Burns, Highways 20 & 395 split apart. Highway 20
continues east towards Idaho and Highway 395 heads towards the City of John Day
some 70 miles north. Take a left (north) on Highway 395 and proceed
approximately 13 miles to a point where you’ll enter the Malheur National Forest
boundary. Another seven or eight miles more and you exit the forest boundary
into the beautiful Silvies Valley. This marshy valley is about five miles
wide and 20 or so miles long and it garners its name from a river named in the
early 1800’s for the fur trapper Antoine Sylvaille (thus Silvies) who found the
area “very rich with beaver”.
After traveling a total of 23 miles from Burns or some four miles after leaving
the Malhuer Forest boundary turn LEFT (west) off the highway on National Forest
Road #3145. This turnoff is near Trout Creek. Nfd #3145 is a graveled public
roadway that passes through various private ownerships and eventually re-enters
the National Forest. Continue on “Nfd #3145” some 8.8 miles to a dirt spur
road on the right at N43° 59.657’ – W119° 00.550’. If you get to “Jack Andy
Creek” you’ve gone too far. Go back up the hill near the top of the ridge and
check your GPS position.
This spur road near this ridge top is a good place to park and then navigate on
foot with your GPS in a northeasterly direction approximately 0.5 miles to the
confluence. You may be able to actually drive a bit closer to the confluence
on other nearby roads, but if you check the topography maps you’ll find that
this take off point offers the most gentle grade in and out. Remember the
elevation is over 5,000 feet and even small hills can seem a lot steeper in the
thin air. Give yourself about an hour out and back and carry some water with
Please note: Roads in the area can be pretty treacherous with a sticky slick
muddy “gumbo” after the permafrost leaves in the spring. Make sure the roads
are dry before you try it.
Be careful with fire and above all tell somebody where you’re going and when
you’re supposed to be back.