The 23 square mile Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area (ONA) is popular for the diverse basaltic features that bear witness to the volcanic eruptions that occurred in times past. This volcanism led to the formation of landscapes such as craters, vents, spatter cones, cinder cones, and many other fascinating features that welcome sightseers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore its beautiful areas. If you’re coming to this BLM land, ensure your vehicle is a four-wheel-drive so that you can easily negotiate the dirt roads that lead to the park’s areas.
Visit this ONA for opportunities to see natural wonders, hike and bike, and enjoy scenic auto touring adventures. Primitive camping and exploration opportunities are available at Steens Mountain Wilderness where you can enjoy picnics and horseback riding, and even take part in the winter recreation exercises on offer. Wildlife and bird viewing, as well as fishing opportunities are top among the list of things to do at the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Additional recreation is open north of the ONA at Malheur National Forest.
Camping opportunities are available within BLM campgrounds south of the ONA around Steens Mountains.
Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area lies a few miles south of New Princeton, Oregon. This Bureau of Land Management property can be accessed via a number of major routes, such as State Highway 205 and Steens Highway 78, as well as local roads such as Lava Bed Road and Happy Valley Road.
If you’re coming to the ONA from Burns, navigate along State Highway 78 to Highway 205, all the way to Diamond Junction. From there, you will be able to connect to Lava Bed Road which leads to the ONA. It’s advisable to come in four-wheel drive vehicles so that the dirt roads along the way to the park can be easily negotiated.
Parking spaces are provided at and around Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area for visitors to park their vehicles when they arrive at the BLM park.
There are no direct public transportation services to this Bureau of Land Management park.
Page Springs Campground sits at the base of Steens Mountains, south of Diamond Craters ONA, and offers 36 spacious campsites that are open year-round. These campsites are sited under juniper and cottonwood trees and provide easy access to two short trails for hiking enthusiasts - Blitzen River Trail and Wilderness Nature Trail.
Fun things to do here include fly fishing, hiking and bird watching. Campers commonly use this campground as a base for adventures at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steens Mountains. This campground offers a covered picnic area for no-fee day use with restrooms, and drinking water.
A campground host is usually available on site between May and September. Campsites are available on first-come, first-served basis.
Recreational vehicles as long as 30 feet are accommodated in the campground; however, no hookups are provided. Come along with all you’ll need for your stay.
South Steens Campground is a 36-campsite campground located in Steens Mountains. Peak season in the campground is from May to November. Tent, RV and equestrian camping opportunities are available within the campsites set amid sage and juniper trees.
The campground is divided into the family and equestrian sections, so the sites are distinct. Amenities such as vault restrooms and potable water are provided here. Hiking and horseback riding opportunities abound for interested campers.
Campsites are available on first-come, first-served basis.
Nature observers that visit Diamond Craters ONA and its surrounding areas are treated to outstanding views of flora and fauna species that call the park home. Good observation opportunities are also available within the primitive settings of Steens Mountains Wilderness, where explorers will find juniper, mountain mahogany, sagebrush, aspen and various species of bunchgrass.
Dominant wildlife species in the area that are commonly sighted by visitors with keen eyes include Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, coyote, pronghorn, and sage grouse.
Steens Mountains Wilderness offers a wide range of opportunities for recreation for guests that wish to enjoy some wilderness experience. Popular things to do in this BLM wilderness area include primitive camping, sightseeing, and picnicking.
It’s up to you to choose how you want to explore the open country in the wilderness, whether on foot or on horseback. The rugged mountain roads are open to biking exercises too. In winter, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling are awesome here.
The history of formation of the beautiful landscapes and geological features of Diamond Craters ONA is one that interests visitors. These landscapes now form great sites for exploration in and around the park.
About 25,000 years ago, basaltic magma created six structural domes in the area, some of which have collapsed, leaving craters that are uniquely shaped and graded with evidences of wrinkles and thin layers of molten basalt. Other features that resulted from past geological activities are the caldera of the Central Crater Complex, cones, and spatter rings. You’ll be intrigued by these features when you see them.
If you are a lover of birds, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has to be on your list of stops when you visit Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area. Why? Because the refuge is a migratory stop-over for more than 250 species of birds. Those that live in the refuge include egrets, great horned owls, and sandhill cranes. Altogether, thanks to the strategic location of the refuge on the Pacific Flyway, over 320 bird species have been observed in the area. Ensure you do not forget your binoculars and camera.
The waterways in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are home to twelve native fish species, including the commonly observed native redband trout and tui chub. Research works conducted in the area also revealed the presence of mountain white fish, sculpin and suckers. Angling enthusiasts are encouraged to release any redband trout they catch within the refuge’s waters because the trout is somewhat rare.
Malheur Lake offers boating, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities for visitors. A boat launch ramp is provided on the Blitzen River.
Auto Touring is the best way to see the areas that surround Diamond Craters ONA and the desert around it. Even though the area is largely unmarked, Oregon Route 205 offers access to a maze of dirt roads and volcanic features in the area that offer views that are hard to forget.
An auto tour brochure is made available by the BLM to interested visitors so that navigating the area can be easy. You could decide to navigate on your own too.