Joe Watt Canyon, Thorp, WA
While we are familiar with the LT Murray Wildlife Area at the Robinson Canyon entrance, we decided to check out the Joe Watt Canyon entrance closer to Thorp. The easier access to this area perhaps makes it more appealing to the ORV crowd. The day of our hike, there were a number of ATVs on the roads, but also a few horseback riders and even another pair of hikers.
We parked inside the gated area and hiked up Joe Watt Canyon road, which followed the flowing creek closely for the first quarter mile. Wilson’s Warblers, Warbling Vireos and Western Tanagers were calling from the cottonwoods - more easily heard than seen. The road climbed upward away from the creek into the open undergrowth of a ponderosa forest. Larch and serviceberry grew along the road’s edge. Nashville Warbler’s sang loudly and continuously from the dry hillsides.
After a short distance, we came upon the old cabin where a pair of chipmunks had made a home and a large number of silvery blues were tasting the muddy meadow. From the old cabin, we escaped an oncoming group of ATVs by heading north along a narrow trail. The trail could have been a road at some point but was now more likely used by cows, hikers and the occasional motor bike. We climbed away from the noisy vehicles and into an open meadow of sagebrush and blooming paintbrush. A male Calliope Hummingbird perched in the open displaying his brilliant groget.
We followed the trail left at the fork, then right down into Rattlesnake Canyon. The trail continued above the creek bed until we came out to a dispersed campsite where a dad and his two young boys shoot bottles that were positioned in front of the road without a proper backstop. We walked quickly by and headed back down the road toward the entrance of Joe Watt Canyon. The arrowleaf balsamroot and lupine brightened the grassy hillside and the Enchantments could be seen beyond the wind farm.
While Joe Watt Canyon offers a different diversity of birds (surprisingly) compared to Robinson Canyon, it is also more difficult to escape ORV which might not be pleasant for the birder or hiker. Still it is a lovely and easily accessible area of ponderosa canyonlands of Eastern Washington.
State Information on L.T Murray Wildlife Area
Washington Trail Association description