Skip to main content

You are here

Natural Areas

Introduction to Natural Areas

The rich diversity of ecosystems and native
plants and animals is one of Oregon's most
distinctive and valued qualities. Our state
contains rain forests, dry forests, oak
woodlands, alpine meadows, prairies, deserts,
marshes, estuaries, dunes, rocky headlands,
lakes and streams. There are a number of
reasons it is so diverse. First are the extremes
of climate, with rainfall ranging from over 200
inches a year along Oregon’s north coast, to
less than 7 inches a year in the Alvord Desert,
and temperatures from the very mild banana
belt along the coast near the California border
to the extremes of the high alpine areas of the
Wallowa Mountains. Secondly, Oregon is
diverse geographically and geologically, having
ancient serpentine landscapes in the Siskiyou
Mountains and recent volcanics in the Cascades
and the deepest gorge in North America at
Hells Canyon. Lastly, Oregon is a floristic
crossroads, with arctic boreal species finding
their southern limit, Rocky Mountain species
common in northeastern Oregon, Great Basin
species in southeastern Oregon, and California
coastal and Sierra species in the southwest, all
mixing with native northwestern taxa to create
a wide array of habitats.