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146. Metolius Preserve, Camp Sherman, Oregon

An extensive tract of ponderosa pine and western larch that attracts migrating warblers and other songbirds in fall and is home to 10 species of woodpecker.

On a sunny April morning I rolled down the windows, then reached for a jacket to fend off the crisp, pine-scented mountain air. Driving slowly, I soon heard the tinny, melancholic call of ubiquitous Red-breasted Nuthatches, a call a friend once likened to a duck on helium. I stopped and listened more intently because the area’s ponderosa-forest birds tend to move about in gregarious associations.

Indeed, the calls of White-headed Woodpecker — the iconic species of the Metolius Preserve — joined a chorus that included Pygmy Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, and to my delight, Williamson’s Sapsucker, among the flashiest of the 10 species of woodpecker inhabiting this part of central Oregon. The title of prettiest woodpecker — and it’s the woodpeckers that draw me to the preserve — may go to Red-breasted Sapsucker. I soon found one foraging in a larch tree, the spring sun beaming off the bird’s ruby-red head.

Another reason to visit: migrating warblers and other songbirds in May and September. Lake Creek runs through the preserve, and its riparian habitat draws impressive numbers of warblers. — John Shewey

John Shewey is a longtime outdoors writer, editor, photographer, and amateur naturalist. He is the author of Complete Angler’s Guide to Oregon (Wilderness Adventures Press).

146. Metolius Preserve, Camp Sherman, Oregon


Metolius Preserve is a 1,240-acre tract of ponderosa pine and western larch forest just west of Camp Sherman and about 15 miles northwest of the town of Sisters. From east- or westbound Hwy. 20, turn north on Jack Lake Rd. Drive about one mile and turn right on FR 1216, then go 1.8 miles to the north entrance road and turn right.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
44°26’56.18″N 121°40’48.58″W 


Ponderosa pine and western larch forest, numerous small burns and thinned areas, willow and shrub riparian habitat on Lake Creek.


Largely flat on dirt forest trails, totaling 10 miles, and dirt/cinder forest roads on the periphery.


Year-round: White-headed, Hairy, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-breasted, Williamson’s, and Red-naped Sapsuckers, Black-backed Woodpecker (rare), Evening Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill, Steller’s Jay, Red-breasted, Pygmy, and White-breasted Nuthatches, Bushtit, Mountain Chickadee, Ruffed and Sooty Grouse. Spring through early fall: Western Wood-Pewee, Olive-sided, Hammond’s, and Dusky Flycatchers, Hermit Thrush, Western Bluebird, Western Tanager, Yellow-rumped, Hermit, Townsend’s, Wilson’s, Nashville, and MacGillivray’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s Vireo.

When to go

Mid-April through mid-May for woodpeckers and warblers. September also excellent for species diversity. Sunny mornings are best.


A general store and a restaurant in Camp Sherman. Forest Service has campgrounds along the Metolius River. Guided hikes hosted by Deschutes Land Trust several times annually; see


Deschutes Land Trust preserve. No fees; drive-in access via all-weather forest roads to two primary trailhead/entrance sites, plus several informal entrance sites. Trail maps available at entrance kiosks.


To reach south entrance, turn off Hwy. 20 onto unmarked FR 2064 (0.7 miles west of FR 14). Go 2.6 miles, then follow signs to the preserve.

For more info

Deschutes Land Trust, (541) 330-0017.

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