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Harney Malheur Lakes Watershed (USGS #17120001)

The Harney-Malheur Lake watershed encompasses 6 million acres -- most of Harney County -- in southeastern Oregon. The watershed is one of the least populated areas in the contiguous U.S., and is characterized by its landscape of high, arid uplands and forests. This area contains Steens Mountain, which reaches an elevation of 9,780 feet and is managed as a Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Malheur Lake and Harney Lake are located in the flat lowlands in the eastern part of the watershed. Occasionally connected as one lake, Malheur Lake and Harney Lake are currently separated by sand dunes, and in drier years, both lakes become marshes. Malheur Lake and its surroundings are included within the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The area plays an important role in providing habitat for migratory birds, especially waterfowl.

The watershed is home to a healthy population of mule deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope, and supports over one thousand wild horses on six Herd Management Areas. Most of the watershed is utilized for agriculture and rangeland, but the area's high elevation, short growing season, and propensity for frost allows only for hay and cattle to be grown and raised. Abundant fish and game attract hunters, fishermen, and tourists. Each year more than 60,000 tourists visit the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steens Mountain CMPA.


The Environmental Protection Agency's Surf Your Watershed website for the Harney-Malheur watershed

Harney County Watershed Council

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service hydrologic profile for the Harney-Malheur watershed

USGS water resources links for the Harney-Malheur watershed

The Environmental Protection Agency's Section 303(d) fact sheet for the Harney-Malheur watershed

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Strategy for Monitoring Oregon's Waters

Authored by Caitlin Bell, Science Writer, Oregon Explorer