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Black Canyon, Wenas Wildlife Area (Yakima County), WA

Located opposite of Hardy Canyon in the Wenas Wildlife Area is Black Canyon. We took a quick backpacking trip there mid- June. The trail was a former green dot road (theoretically closed to vehicles - but isn't always followed as we witnessed), so was wide and fairly level. Due to the late spring this year, there were still plenty of wildflowers along the trail - mostly Wild Blue Flax and plenty of Mule's Ear's, vetch, and Oregon Spring on the canyon hillside. Dark basalt rock on the canyon side probably gave Black Canyon its name. The creek below the trail was narrow and heavily grown in with elderberry, aspen, chokecherry, and hawthorn. At times the small creek would disappear below the surface.

About a mile from the trialhead, in a large groove of aspens was the old homestead. We camped in the grassy meadow besides the old building. The trail continued on above the homestead. About half a mile up, the trail forked at a green dot road, where vehicles are allowed. The slopes of the canyon wall gave way and opened up to ponderosa pines. We continued right and up the road through the open pines. Heartleaf Arnica and Lupine dominated the forest floor. Harsh Paintbrush, Prairie Star, and Douglas Brodaiea added a bright splashes of color. On the open lithsol was a dense mat of waning Shooting Stars - it would have been an impressive display one month earlier. Instead, Bitterroot and Upland Larkspur sprouted and bloomed from the dry ground.

The trail/green dot road reached Umtanum Ridge, which was covered in various small yellow flowers - most of which were patches of Oregon Sunshine. From the ridge we could see Kittitas Valley below and the many windmills on the hills. If it weren't for the clouds that day, we could have seen the Cascades, Mount Stewart, and Mount Rainer.

Most birds along the canyon were typical of the area. There were many Olive-sided Flycatchers, also Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bullocks Orioles, Lazuli Buntings, and Western Woodpewees were common among the aspens. From the canyon walls, I could hear Western Meadowlarks call from the sagebrush. A pair of American Kestrels were active near our campsite as was a single Lewis Woodpecker that was flycatching from the canyon hillside. In the last light of dusk, I spotted something small fly around the aspens near our tent. The fledgling Northern Saw Whet Owl began to call and it continued to call sporadically through out the night. A Common Poorwill called from farther down the canyon.

The other birds of interest we saw were a Great Horned Owl that we flushed twice from its roost while hiking on the trail. And we also flushed a juvenile Northern Goshawk, which was a pleasant surprise. It flew away from us and perched long enough for us to see its white supercilium and heavily streaked breast.

We also explored the area below the canyon, which was covered in an impressive display of wildflowers. Cusick's Sunflowers blanketed the hillsides in a sea of yellow. Showy Penstemon, Dusty Maidens, and two types of Hawksbeard grew interspersed through out the sagebrush. A large swath of lithsol showed the remains of Bitterroot, but the Oregon Sunshine were still blooming strongly.

Black Canyon was a great place for a short backpacking trip. It lacked the diversity of birds that Hardy Canyon held, but still had a lot of wildflowers and wildlife to enjoy.


Pictures (click on thumbnail)

Bird List
California Quail
Dusky Grouse
Northern Goshawk
1 juvenile, flushed from creek and perched facing us, heavily speckled/streaked wings, barred tail, no white rump, white supercilium, long and thick brown streaks on cream breast, bright orange/yellow feet, large (size of a harrier), stiff wings beats without much glide
American Kestrel
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
1 juvenile, very vocal, called through out the night
Common Poorwill
2, heard
Lewis's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee
Steller's Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Rock Wren
House Wren
Western Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Wilson's Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Western Meadowlark
Bullock's Oriole
American Goldfinch
Other Critters:
Least Chipmunk
Rock Squirrel
Mule Deer
1 buck, 4 doe
1 cow
Flowers in bloom
Chelan Penstemon
Cusick's Sunflower
Douglas Buckwheat
Douglas' brodiaea
Dusty Maidens
Gairdner's Penstemon
Harsh Paintbrush
Heartleaf Arnica
Hound's Tongue
Large flowered Collomia
Longleaf Hawksbeard
Meadow Death Camas
Modoc Hawksbeard
Mules Ear
Naked Broomrape
Narrow leaved Collomia
Narrow leaved Desert Parsley
Narrowleaf Phacelia
Nettleleaf Horsemint
Northern Buckwheat
Old mans beard
Oregon Sunshine
Red Columbine
Round headed Desert Buckwheat
Sagebrush Stickweed
Shaggy Daisy
Showy Penstemon
Showy Phlox
Sicklepod Rockcress
Slender Hawksbeard
Small-flowered Prairie Star
Steppe Sweetpea
Sticky Cinquefoil
Sticky Geranium
Taper-tip Onion
Thompson Paintbrush
Threadleaf Phalecia
Threadstock Locoweed
Upland Larkspur
Western Groundsel
White leaf Phalecia
Wild Blue Flax
Wild Carrot
Wood's Rose
Yellow Desert Daisy



Located: south of Ellensburg
Wenas Wildlife Area
Black Canyon trail


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page updated: 6/23/11