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The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy brings back its Spring Series of Free Public Hikes

Mail Tribune/Jamie LuschKristi Mergenthaler, left, and Eva Thiemann use flags to mark the location of the federally endangered Cook’s Lomatium at the Agate Desert Preserve in White City on Thursday. The area is among those to be explored during the SOLC Spring Hike Series.

Pompadour Bluff courtesy photo, located just outside of Ashland, will be featured on the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy’s Spring Hike Series.

A legendary southern Oregon stewardship group is reviving its popular spring hiking series by highlighting a series of its new land holdings in Jackson County.

After a two-year COVID hiatus, the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy is bringing back its spring series of free public hikes with eyes and ears to Pompadour Bluff east of Ashland as well as three preserves recently transferred to SOLC ownership.

Pompadour Bluff is known on SOLC listings as the Harry and Marilyn Fisher Preserve after the couple who donated the land to the preserve. It includes the majestic Pompadour Bluff, jagged outcrops that highlight Ashland’s landscape and are home to a myriad of birds and wildlife.

Also new are the Whetstone Savanna Preserve, Rogue Plains Reserve and Agate Desert Preserve, former properties of The Nature Conservancy recently transferred to the SOLC.

The new holdings highlight this spring’s ride series, which begins April 10 and ends June 18.

We’re featuring some of our new reserves as well as some of our old favorite hikes,” says SOLC Stewardship Manager Kristi Megenthaler.

“Our goal is to connect people to the place, to the beautiful natural world, and to the common and rare plants and animals of our region,” Mergenthaler said.

And that includes continuing some of the wild and historic rides that have anchored the SOLC spring series since its expansion a decade ago.

These include walks on the reserve’s Rogue River Reserve near the Dodge Bridge boat launch along the Rogue just off Highway 234.

Along with guided hikes, the reserve opens the grounds to personal walks during two open days scheduled for April 16 and June 18.

The reserve is normally closed to the general public outside of scheduled events, in order to keep its natural habitat intact. But open days allow the public to explore on a limited basis.

“People can walk around and appreciate the beauty without a guide, but those same days are optional guided hikes,” Megenthaler says.

“It’s open to exploration without someone interpreting everything for you,” she says. “These are really beautiful events.”

Pre-registration is mandatory for hikes, including open land days. For more information and to register, visit www.landconserve.org/events or call 541-482-3069.

The Whetstone Savanna Preserve is a rare 144-acre site that includes groves of Oregon White Oaks that have largely disappeared from their traditional western Oregon range.

The Rogue Plains Preserve consists of a conservation easement on 125 acres of private land which includes vernal pools.

Along with the 170-acre Agate Desert Preserve, these holdings all mark the gravelly outpouring plain on the Rogue Valley floor along or near the Rogue. They are home to endangered vernal pool fairy shrimp and two federally endangered plants – lemon-yellow Cook’s Desert Parsley and showy white meadowfoam.

SOLV began its 2020 Spring Hikes series just as COVID-19 broke out in the United States, and the series was erased before its conclusion in June.

No rides were scheduled last spring, but a short fall run was offered late last year.

“It goes without saying that we’re thrilled to have them back,” Mergenthaler said.

Hiking schedule

Whetstone Savanna Spring Pools, Sunday, April 10, 9 a.m. to noon. A 1.5 mile walk exploring communities of mounding meadows and biologically rich vernal pools. Highlights will include viewing endangered Cook’s Desert Parsley and flowering meadowfoam plants, many other spring wildflowers, and seeing an abundance of birdlife.

Rogue River Preserve Open House with two hiking options, Saturday, April 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will explore the trails of the reserve on their own or join experts for a guided interpretive hike.

Hike Option 1, Wildflowers, runs from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The Rogue River Preserve will serve as an outdoor laboratory to learn about the botany for this excursion.

Option 2 of the hike, Plants & People, will run from 1-2 p.m. The walk will focus on plants and ethnobotany, including how plants adapt to the reservation’s unique environment and how animals, Native Americans and early settlers depend on them for food, medicine. , shelter and tools.

Vernal Pool Flower Power at Whetstone Savanna Preserve, Saturday, April 30, 9 a.m. to noon. Participants will learn about some of the flowers found in vernal pool habitats.

Explore the cliff at the Harry & Marilyn Fisher Preserve at Pompadour Bluff, Wednesdays, May 4, 11, and 18, 3-5 p.m. Participants will hike to Pompadour Bluff just outside of Ashland. Hike through oaks and meadows to the top for views across the valley and beyond.

Jacksonville Woodlands History Tour, Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Chelsea Rose, a research archaeologist from Southern Oregon University, will lead a three-hour hike through the woods and share her expertise on Jacksonville’s mining history.

Petals & Feathers at Pompadour Bluff, Sunday May 8, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Bird biologist Frank Lospalluto and SOLC botanist Kristi Mergenthaler will lead hikers on an exploration of the cliff with a particular focus on birds and flowers.

Geological discoveries at Pompadour Bluff, Saturday May 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Geology professor Dr. Jad D’Allura will take participants on a hike to explore the geology of Pompadour Bluff.

Open Lands Family Day at Rogue River Preserve with two hiking options, Saturday, June 18, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hike option 1: Reptiles, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dr. Michael Parker, professor of biology at Southern Oregon University, will lead participants on a two-mile exploration of the reserve to search for resident reptiles.

Hike option 2: Butterflies, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Led by naturalist Linda Kappen, participants will learn how to carefully catch butterflies with nets and identify them.

Prior registration is required for the hikes. For more information and to register, visit www.landconserve.org/events or call 541-482-3069.

Contact reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or email him at [email protected]