Oregon's Two Climates

Yesterday, our flight took us over the sandhills of western Nebraska, above the desert landscape of southern Wyoming, across the glacier-studded peaks of the Wind River Range and, just south of the Teton massif, into Idaho. The vast, dry flatlands of the Snake River Plain, dotted with small cinder cones, spread toward the mountains of northern Utah as we crossed the rugged peaks of central Idaho and, crossing the stark chasm of the Snake River gorge, entered Oregon.

Despite its image as a land of luxuriant forests, whitewater streams and heavy precipitation (lowland rain and mountain snows), Oregon possesses two climates; its eastern half, lying in the rain shadow of the Cascades, is a sun-drenched region with desert and semiarid landscapes. Our view from above confirmed this fact as we crossed the dry, heavily dissected terrain of northeastern Oregon; placing emphasis on the arid conditions below, a large forest fire burned across the side of a ridge, its massive plume drifting to the west.

Then, as we glided past the scenic cone of Mt. Hood, the dry landscape gave way to verdant forests, lakes and more gently sculpted terrain, the scenery we all associate with the Pacific Northwest. Over the coming week, we will explore the green side of Oregon, with its massive trees, spectacular waterfalls, volcanic topography and rugged coastline. More to come!