East of Reedsport, Oregon, the Devils Staircase Wilderness comprises some of the last remaining old-growth forest in the Oregon Coast Range. This remote and inaccessible place truly meets the definition of wild – there are no trails here or designated access points. Instead, it is reserved as an important refuge for wildlife, including the federally threatened northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet which can find prime habitat here and few other places in Oregon.
Highly unstable soil and steep slopes here have prevented the area from being logged; in the 1970s the Forest Service determined much of the area was unsuitable for timber production. Today, this remnant Coast Range old-growth forest contains large Douglas-fir, cedar, and hemlock trees. Through the center of the wilderness flows Wassen Creek, which was designated as a Wild and Scenic River at the same time the wilderness was designated by Congress. The creek provides important habitat for native coho and chinook salmon, trout, and steelhead. The wilderness’s namesake, Devils Staircase, is a low cascading waterfall, where the stream tumbles over sandstone outcroppings whose beauty belies its more ominous-sounding name. Franklin Creek, another Wild and Scenic River, also flows through the wilderness on its way to the Umpqua River.
This is a pristine place, where the wildlife making their home here are rarely disturbed by human visitation. Those who do attempt to penetrate this wilderness will find challenging conditions and extremely difficult navigation (don’t depend on GPS). This wilderness is not for the faint of heart.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Devils Staircase Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.
Wilderness Connect, housed on the University of Montana campus, acknowledges that we are on the traditional lands of the Salish and Kalispel peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout many generations and are its past, present, and future caretakers.