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Hikers Explore Dry River Canyon

At one time, where the dry Millican Valley lies today, sat a giant seep lake called Lake Millican.  That feature goes back to the Pleistocene Era,  roughly a million years ago, which isn’t all that much in geologic time.   Ancient Lake Millican had no outlet until erosion and time allowed the water to break through the barriers holding it back.  At some point, all the water in Lake Millican drained through one outlet.  Today what remains of that outlet is the Dry River Canyon.  The Dry River Canyon trailhead is located just south and outside of the Oregon Badland Wilderness, off Highway 20 shortly beyond milepost 17. 

On Sunday November 21st, a group of CONC folks lead by CONC President Jerry Sebestyen took a 7 mile out and back hike through the canyon and were rewarded with great examples of erosional geology, seven foot tall sagebrush, and an old car running board and fender.  The most plausible theory  for this Anthropocene artefact is that someone disposed of an unwanted vehicle by pushing it off the canyon edge decades ago.  Unlike the canyon’s huge, rounded boulders, these rusted relics probably were not deposited by Lake Millican.  

The group had a great weather day with Central Oregon sunshine, light wind and perfect hiking temperatures.  The trail itself is mostly sand but sections are very rocky, and there is a boulder slide that needs a short scramble over in order to continue to the end of the canyon.  

The BLM closes Dry Canyon to all uses from February through the end of August because it is a raptor nesting and fledging area, so hiking is limited to fall and winter.  

Side note – Both Millican Valley and the ancient Lake Millican were named for one George Millican (1834, New York – 1919, Oregon), who ranched there from about 1880 to 1916.  Millican Crater, near Black Crater, is named for this hardy soul as well.