Saturday, April 11, 2015

Duffy Creek

Duffy Creek is on the southeast side of Badger Mountain east of Wenatchee. The sign and the setting is classic BLM land - scrub steppe range land. A common site in the intermountain regions of the western U.S., but not so common in Washington State where the BLM footprint is a relatively small (washington-vs-oregon-and-blm-lands). A tract of land that was never claimed via the Homestead Act or railroad land give-a-ways or other schemes of privatizing land. Perhaps a bit too harsh a climate and isolated. There are extensive dry land wheat farms in the vicinity, but this site is thin on soils.

I have previously read complaints about the poor condition of the access road. The road did prove to be one where clearance was an issue with deep ruts and the road at least this early in the spring has some very wet and soft spots further on that I decided would be best to do on foot. I will say that the complaints were not directed at the BLM, but at Douglas County. The context is that Douglas County receives Federal payments called PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the BLM lands within the County, and complaints suggested since this tract of Federal land is one of the reasons for those payments the county ought to fix the road or at least grade it on occasion. I will state I have no opinion on the matter - I just anticipated the road might be a bit rough and was only using it as a short cut to get somewhere else.

The main attraction of Duffy Creek is the lower end of the creek where the creek has incised a canyon and spills over several small waterfalls. A very pleasant out of the way oasis in the desert. The upper valley is within the transition zone from scrub steppe to pine forest and aspen groves.

Ecologically this is edge habitat with pines and fir and aspen and stream meadows surrounded by high elevation scrub steppe.

Geologically and perhaps more importantly geomorphically this is a rather unique bit of terrain that warrants further research and study. The site is just a bit south of the Okanogan Ice Lobe's furthest extent, but is actually higher in elevation. It is also outside of the areas impacted by the ice age floods. But unlike most areas of eastern Washington not scoured by ice or flood waters, the soils are thin and lack the thick mantle of wind blown silts.


Sam Crawford said...

To my understanding SRS is for school districts, and county road funds (I believe the county can only use it for road maint. and traffic enforcement), and PILT could be applied more for general fund reimbursement (court-system support for fed. agency law-enforcement, etc.). I'll admit I'm less familiar with the applications of PILT money here in Whatcom.

Sam Crawford said...

By the way, your descriptions and photographs are frequently my online version of National Geographic. Thank you for the time you take to post your observations.

Dan McShane said...

Your welcome Sam. You are correct in that PILT payments in Douglas County all go into the general fund. The last cycle saw Douglas County get $140,000 in PILT funding. Not inconsequential for a small county.
My sense is that the complaints recognize that the BLM does not have a funding source for the road work and some folks would like the county to do something abut the road condition. The only advantage about the complaints for me was that I was aware that the road was likely in poor condition and was prepared to hike. I did not mind the walk to my destination, but I was not heading to the lower canyon.