Wonderful Day at Groundhog Mountain and Logger Butte

The rock formations of Logger Butte are quite stunning, and the many colorful wildflowers growing in the rocks make it even more special.

Dave admiring the cliff on the south side of Logger Butte.

Groundhog Mountain in southeastern Lane County has been one of my favorite botanizing sites for almost 20 years (over 40 trips so far!). Unfortunately, despite many roads leading up to the numerous wetlands and rocky spots, it has been getting more difficult to get up there, so my visits have been getting less frequent. From any direction, it’s 10 miles or more of gravel roads that have been deteriorating over time, and with no trails and no real logging of late, there has been no upkeep on the roads. So I was thrilled to get invited by Dave Predeek to go up there with him and Alan Butler, who also loves the area. Both are fellow members of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Alan has a hefty truck and doesn’t mind driving—my kind of a guy! On July 15, Alan drove us up the northern route to Groundhog via Road 2309, the road I took for many years until I finally gave up on it when a deep gully developed in the middle of the road. I was really happy to see the gully seemed to have filled in on its own, and the road wasn’t as bad as the last time I’d driven. Not to say I would take my smaller car up that way yet, but it was passable for a sturdy, high-clearance vehicle.

The wet spring fueled an excellent show of rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) along the seepy roadcut. The yellow flowers are Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

Going up from that direction meant we got to pass a terrific long stretch of rocky roadcut that I hadn’t visited for years. It was quite floriferous with seep-loving annuals. I was even able to spot some Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii), a favorite Western Cascade endemic plant I hadn’t remembered seeing there before.

Looking back to the north at the view of that rocky roadcut area along Road 2309.

Gorgeous harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) lit up the roadside on our way up.

After enjoying the multitude of flowers in the large wetland on the east side of Groundhog Mountain, we headed down to the wetland just north of Logger Butte at the end of Road 462. It’s a short half-mile deadend road, but somehow it is always in good shape. I hope that continues to be true because this wetland has lots of sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and many other interesting bog, wetland, and meadow plants, so I make a point of visiting it on most every trip to Groundhog Mountain.

The main wetland at the intersection of 2309 and 452 was quite beautiful. It was peak season for elephant head (Pedicularis groenlandica) and mountain boykinia (Boykinia major).

At the upper wetland just north of Logger Butte, I was able to relocate the population of Sierra lewisia (Lewisia nevadensis) I had seen in the past. I rarely see this plant, and this was the third time I’d seen it already this season. These flowers were the large type I had seen most often. The tiny pink flowers are Brewer’s monkeyflower (Erythranthe breweri).

From there, Alan drove us up to the top of Logger Butte, about midway between Groundhog and Warner mountains. It’s another spot I hadn’t been to in years. There’s a bench at the summit with a great 360° view and a picnic area just below. This was the highlight of the day for me because it was peak season for rock-loving plants, and I found two good additions to my area plant list: Sierra arnica (Arnica nevadensis) and cliff paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola). This is only my fifth site for Sierra arnica in the Western Cascades. Most of the other known sites are in the High Cascades. There were also lots of butterflies hilltopping on the summit, so I was pretty happy and could probably have spent the entire day there, but there is too much to see to stay in one spot.

The road up to Logger Butte is lined with Cascade fleabane (Erigeron cascadensis) and other beautiful wildflowers, so after parking at the top, we walked back down the road a ways. If I had been driving, I’d have parked at the bottom and walked up to avoid driving past the steep dropoff. Luckily, Alan is a braver driver than I am!

I was especially excited to be able to confirm that there is indeed cliff paintbrush on the cliff on the north side of Logger Butte. I had seen it with binoculars last year when Jenny Lippert and I had driven by on the road below (see Groundhog Mountain Reconnoiter), but I couldn’t get close enough to it from down there to be sure. Alan and I climbed over to the north side from the Logger Butte road. Although the footing was a little sketchy, I was able to get right up to several blooming plants.

So much to choose from! Three species that rufous hummingbirds love all blooming in one spot: western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), and harsh paintbrush.

Unlike many of our other arnicas, Sierra arnica is found in very rocky places. It looks similar to heartleaf arnica (A. cordifolia), but its leaves don’t have any teeth. I was a little late for fresh blooms on this normally attractive species.

For our last major stop, we headed farther south to Warner Mountain to see if the Cascade lilies (Lilium washingtonianum) were in bloom yet, and then I shared with Dave and Alan my special gentian bog (see Back to Warner Mountain Bog). Neither the Cascade lilies nor the bog gentians (Gentiana calycosa) were in bloom, but I did get to show them blooming green-flowered ginger (Asarum wagneri), a rare plant that grows right along the road near the Warner Lookout.

It was great fun sharing all our favorite spots in this botanically rich area. Many thanks to Alan and Dave for inviting me along and giving me a day off from driving!

A snowberry checkerspot on Cascade fleabane.

Looking south from Logger Butte, there is a good view of the Warner Lookout and the meadow and talus slope on the east side. My last visit to this spot in August of last year was detailed in Studying Gentians at Warner Mountain.

3 Responses to “Wonderful Day at Groundhog Mountain and Logger Butte”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Thank you!!! I love this NATURAL Rock garden!!! Perfect…Great trip you had… I love exploring our back roads. The tragedies I’m spotting where over logging has occurred…not to mention loss of Doug Fir , Ponderosa Pine and others to beetle and fungus because of drought… Is heart breaking… keep it up!! My presentation went very well… and we had a GOOD crowd

    Again…thank you

  • Katie Grenier:

    Finally – and long overdue – want to thank you for your wonderful posts! It’s high time I let you know how much I enjoy reading your notes, seeing your photos, and your excellent knowledge of Botany!!
    And great photo of the hummingbird! Thank you very much!

  • Thanks for the kind words, Katie!

Leave a Reply

Post Categories
Notification of New Posts