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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.