L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, WA
The L.T. Murray Wildlife Area isn't far from I-90 or Ellensburg, but holds a treasure trove of wildlife, wildflowers, and ecosystems. The Robinson Canyon entrance is popular with the horseback riders, but also with birders and hikers.
We camped in one of the many lush meadows, surrounded by tall ponderosa pines. The main trail that heads up Robinson Canyon was washed out a few years ago. Still we hiked up the trail, rock hoping and crossing the creek several times. After the washed out section, the trail continued on and was in relatively good condition, except for a few places that had grown over.
The trail follows the canyon upward. Aspen, hawthorn, alder, and willows grow thick by the stream side. To the north is the basalt and rocky wall of Robinson canyon. To the south, ponderosa pines grow on a gentler slope. Warbling Vireos, Lazuli Buntings, and Nashville Warblers sing from the riparian. A MacGillivary's and Wilson's Warblers and a Cassin's Vireo also make an appearance. Large tracks in the mud indicated a large bear had been walking on the trails the previous day during the heavy rain. The trail eventual leads us past an old homestead with a house and barn. Soon after the trail leads us up the southern canyon wall and connects with the green dot roads.
One could follow the green dot road and hike Aiensley Canyon back down to Robinson Canyon, but we didn't really know where we were going at the time. Instead we followed an old jeep trail that lead us over the rim of Robinson Canyon. The trail lead us through blooming lupine meadows with paintbrush, mule's ears, and death camas. Eventually the trail petered out and we transversed a rather steep hill up and down to the other side where we eventually dropped on to the trail in Aiensley Canyon. We followed the trail down toward Robinson Canyon, but broke off the trail early to follow one of the many animal trails that cut through the meadows and ponderosa.
One of the great things about this area is abundance of old jeep trails and the many animal trails to follow. So finding a good hike isn't difficult. The trails also take us through a great variety of habitats: riparian, canyons, aspen groves, meadows, dry rocky desert, and ponderosa. With the variety of ecosystems comes a diversity of birds. Cassin's Finches, Western Tanagers, Western Wood-pewees, Western Meadowlarks, Sooty Grouse, and Black-headed Grosbeaks were seen in the meadows and ponderosa. Vireos, warblers, Lazuli Buntings, California Quail, and Bullock's Orioles relished life in the riparian area.
The L.T. Murray Wildlife Area is large and Robinson Canyon is only a small portion of it. With an expansive system of green dot roads, there's a lot of potential to exploring further reaches of the area.
Other Critter List
California ground squirrel
Wild blue flax
Parsnip flowered Buckwheat
Rocky Mountain iris
False solomon's seal
L.T. Murray Wildlife Area