The Oregon Badlands are one of my favorite “get away for a few hours” Central Oregon photography places. Accessible year round, with the exception of sections that are sometimes temporarily closed for nesting endangered birds.
I’ve found great wildlife, picked off a few rainbows across the valley and done some great HDR photography with the ancient junipers.
The Badlands are a vast 29,301-acre rugged area of abundant photographic opportunities.
Wildlife, Native American petroglyphs, ancient junipers a few graves and much more….. There are nearly 50 miles of two-track trail available for non-motorized use.
Twelve miles east of Bend on highway 20 and also north off of Dodd’s road are the access points to The Badlands Wilderness Nature Study Area.
The spectacular colors and native landscapes are really something to return to over and over.
The ancient junipers are so unusual that they are worth the trip!
There are many cool ones on the Ancient Juniper Trail off Highway 20.
You are likely to see hikers, horseback riders, photographers, hunters (I know, sounds like a bad mix but it’s okay) and even possibly our own famous Rachel Scdoris training for winter dog sled racing.
The Oregon Badlands are also a favorite spot for some night star photography.
Just be really careful to have good maps that are not on your cell phone as you may lose connectivity and have to guess in the dark.
How do I know this you ask?
The only down side is, after dark the place is known for drug activity so staying for the wonderful star photography is definitely at your own risk.
(I've never run in to anyone out there but I've heard a lot about it.)
To see what you can REALLY do with stars in The Oregon Badlands, check out this image by the master star man himself, Brad Goldpaint.
Along the Dry Creek Canyon trail (also off highway 20) there are some spots where there are petroglyphs.
Please be respectful of them.
In the area off of Dodds road is one of my favorite ponds, Reynolds Pond. There are lots of geese nesting there (remember safety first with those geese.)
Reynold's Pond is a peaceful, beautiful place.
I often find families fishing here and people walking dogs.
The reflections are nice and the color is wonderful year-round.
I also like to play around with star shoots.
Last time I tried that there, there were some guys doing some night fishing and they had a campfire, which was troublesome for star shooting but they offered me free beer, so I opted for doing a video shoot of their fire and making new friends.
But I did get a few nice night shots courtesy of some light pollution from Bend.
I mentioned earlier that Reynold's Pond is a nesting spot for geese.
They do photograph well.
In the Oregon Badlands the storms can come up quickly and make for quite the drama. This was also over by Reynold's Pond.
This really needs space over in the Oregon Odd Stuff!
Also in this north area off of Dodds Road, on the Larry Chitwood Trailhead, is a very unique area. Piles of protected trash line the trail. They are war remnants and considered “Protected Artifacts”. Yes, here in Central Oregon we have protected trash. They are oddly photogenic and interesting. Don’t take any home with you. (‘Cause I know you want some…)
As with most of Oregon there is abundant wildlife in The Badlands.
Mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, cottontail rabbit, black-tailed jackrabbits, coyote, bats, and six species of lizard. Over 100 species of birds make their home in here, including golden eagles, sage grouse, owls and many birds of prey.
Camping: None. Day Use Only.
Other: TAKE WATER!