Spooktacular Skulls

Jolly Roger flown by “Calico Jack”  1718

Avast Matey!

Historically skulls have been used as a warning to scare people away; whether it was primitive tribes mounting skulls on bamboo stakes or the fearsome Jolly Roger flying on the horizon.  The origin of the name is unclear. Jolly Roger had been a generic term for a jovial, carefree man since at least the 17th century and the existing term seems to have been applied to the skeleton or grinning skull in these flags by the early 18th century.

Day of the Dead depicts esqueletos (skeletons) as departed family or friends who have died.Esqueleto at Disneyland

Dios de las Muertos  (The Day of the Dead) is celebrated throughout Mexico and Latin America; as well as the United States, Europe and the Philippines today but the celebration dates back to ancient Aztec traditions more than 3,000 years ago to honor the dead.

This celebration in Mexico lasts for three days, children will often build ofrendas (alters) on October 31, All Hallows Eve, to invite the angelitos (child) spirits to come back to visit.  On November 1, All Saints Day the adult spirits come to visit.  On November 2, All Souls Day, is when families go to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their relatives with marigolds, tissue paper flowers, cardboard esqueletos (skeletons), photos, incense, and favorite foods.


So why are bones so scary to us?  Biologically, fear exists in living creatures as a response to stimuli that threatens its survival both individually or as a species. It is instinct to fight or run from anything that might cause death.  Many people approach death itself with the same attitude. Whether faced with a spooky, old cemetery or finding a bone near a trail, many people will feel at least a little uneasy.  Throw in a crow’s caw in the distance or watch the turkey vultures circle overhead, twilight approaching and you have the makings of Stephen King novel.


At The Cove you don’t have to walk very far to find a bone or even an entire skeleton.  We have plenty of carnivores (i.e. coyotes, cougars, otters, eagles) that don’t clean up after themselves very well.  Just yesterday I was hiking and found the remains of a mule deer.  Animals don’t intentionally put bones out to scare humans but it does raise the question of who ate it and where are they now?

For some Halloween fun – can you guess what animals these bones belong to?  Come back on October 31st and find out the answers.

photo credit Manitoba Museum


photo credit: Pinterest


File:Nature - rattlesnake skeleton.jpg

photo credit – Scream Wiki


photo credit – unknown


photo credit – Discovery Magazine

Seasonal Closures

As winter approaches and temperatures drop, some parts of The Cove Palisades are closing for the season.  These closures include Lower Deschutes Day-Use, the Deschutes Campground, Group Camp and parts of the Crooked River Campground.  Floating restrooms will be pulled off the lake in October.  (please call the park at 541-546-3412 for specific questions.)


For those visitors seeking solitude this is a great time of year to visit.  Fishing, kayaking on the lake, hiking the Tam A Lau Trail, picnicking in the Crooked River Day-use Area are all wonderful ways to indulge in and enjoy the fall weather.  Day-time temperatures are still warm, the trees in Crooked River Campground will be turning golden and crimson soon, wildlife abounds and you will love the piece and quiet.

Fur Identification Challenge Answers

On August 24th, I posted a fur identification challenge game.  If you took the test, look below to see if you answered them correctly.

1.  North American Beaver


2.  Coyote


3.  Raccoon


4.  Mule Deer

5.  Bobcat


I hope you guys had as much fun with that as I did! :) Thanks for joining me!

The Cove is Open for Labor Day Weekend

John Keit Photography

photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

Last weekend Crooked River Campground looked very different. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015 was the day of a fast moving, wind driven wildfire that sent campers, staff workers, neighbors and wildlife scurrying to safety at the Crooked River Campground located near Lake Billy Chinook.  Thanks go out to all of the people who helped fight the fire – Oregon State Park Ranger Staff, Neighbors, Volunteers, Fire Crews from around Central Oregon and local law enforcement .


Mule deer escaping the flames Photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

“All park staff and volunteers that day performed above and beyond the call of duty, and they did it without hesitation,” said Park Manager David Slaght. “They looked out for each other, and no one was hurt. I am so very proud of them all.” Slaght was at home with his family Saturday morning when he got the call that a fire had broken out in the Crooked River Campground (E Loop). He raced to the park, arriving at the same time as a few neighboring farmers driving trucks with water pumps. Together with staff they started building a fire line. “We laid sprinklers and hose line wherever we could to keep the fire from the campground — and we were successful,” Slaght said. Staff and neighbors worked together to protect the campground and neighboring homes until fire crews arrived. Some 20-plus employees and volunteers — including several of the park’s student workers — laid sprinklers and hose line, dug fire line, directed traffic, and helped people evacuate from more than 70 occupied campsites in E Loop. Wind worked against them with gusts up to 60 mph that broke tree limbs and caused the fire to jump and change directions multiple times.  A few campers were not able to evacuate E Loop before the flames reached the road, and seasonal park staff kept them in a protected southwest area for several hours until it was safe to exit. Slaght said, many staff and hosts deserve medals of honor for their efforts that day. He made special mention of the leadership role taken on by seasonal park ranger Lisa Stevenson, who has 16 years of experience as a firefighter in California.  “Lisa and her team started the evacuation and literally saved a family from being burned. Her quick thinking and past firefighter experience made the true difference in this devastating fire,” Slaght said.

Photo Credit: Linda Larson

Photo Credit: Linda Larson

Fire Chief Brian Huff pulled all local resources and requested mutual aid from every Central Oregon fire department.  Emergency First Responders from Jefferson County Fire and Sheriff, Culver Fire, Warm Springs, Oregon State Police, Bureau of Land Management, 3 Rivers, Crook County Fire and Rescue, La Pine Fire, Oregon Department of Forestry, Sunriver Fire and Rescue, Sisters Camp Sherman Fire, and Cloverdale Fire District, (I apologize to any agencies that I didn’t see) battled extreme fire behavior for hours on Saturday and Sunday.  It was incredible how fast the fire moved; wind gusts up to 60 MPH, erratically changing directions along with steep, rocky terrain made fighting it difficult.

The cause of the fire was determined to have originated from charcoal briquettes which were not completely extinguished. The accident has prompted Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to review operational and public safety protocols, said Director Lisa Sumption.

Park staff spent the week installing caution tape and warning signs to keep visitors out of hazardous areas. We’ve been irrigating daily to prevent flare-ups, and firefighters continue to scout the area and put out hotspots.


As campers pull into a fully-booked Cove Palisades campground this Labor Day weekend, they will see a green oasis surrounded by a charred landscape. Saturday’s 280-acre fire at The Cove left the campground miraculously untouched. The scene is a testament to an incredible team effort at The Cove to protect visitors and the park.

Open flames, candles, tiki torches, and/or charcoal briquettes are banned in all Oregon State Parks east of the Cascades.  While campfires may be part of Labor Day camp-out traditions, they simply are not safe right now.

Silent Hunters



Mountain Lion, National Geographic Photo

Cougar, Mountain Lion, Panther, Puma…listed in dictionaries under more names than any other animal in the world.  “It is the ultimate loner, a renegade presence in the wildest canyons and wildest mountains, the sign of everything that is remote from us, everything we have not spoiled,” The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.  America’s lion has roamed throughout the Americas for at least 50,000 years.

Native to Oregon, the state is home to more than 5,500 cougars. Males can have home territories of 200 square miles.  Only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile range.  While cougar sightings and encounters are rare, it is wise to educate yourself about the big cats.

Cougars are the 4th largest of the big cats.  A cougar can be identified by its large size, cat-like appearance, consistent tan or tawny body color, and long tail. An adult cougar’s tail is nearly three feet long and a third to a half of its total length. Males can weigh up to 260 lbs.  Females are smaller and can weigh up to 90 lbs.  They can run up to 50 MPH, they can jump over 30 feet long or 18 feet straight up, they are good climbers and can swim if necessary.  Most active at dawn and dusk, cougars are lone hunters.  Cougars are carnivores, they hunt by stealth, and they require eight to ten pounds of meat per day.  Their primary food source is deer, but they will eat elk and smaller animals like raccoons, coyotes, porcupines and other mammals.


Mother Cougar and Cub, photo credit Mountain Lion Foundation

Females have one litter, up to six cubs, per year.  Baby kittens are completely dependent on their mother when they are born.  Mama cougars are fiercely protective of her cubs.  Cubs are born with spots and blue eyes.  The spots add camouflage from predators; these fade within about six months.  They grow quickly.  A kitten can survive on it’s own by six months but that is rare.  Typically they will stay with her for twelve to eighteen months.  Cougars can live up to approximately ten years in the wild.

If you ever wonder why we don’t see Cougars more often, these big cats can sleep twenty hours a day.  While actual cougar sightings have increased, coyotes, bobcats and dogs are often mistaken for cougars. If you are in an area where cougars have been spotted, it will be posted.  You can look for signs that a cougar has been there by looking for scat (droppings) or tracks.  Cat tracks are round and typically lack claw marks.  Males will leave scrapes (or scratches).  Cougars do not roar, they scream or “caterwaul” (a shrill howling).  They are the largest cat that can still purr.

mountain lion track

Mountain Lion track

Living or playing in Cougar Country…

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times; especially if you are sitting quietly.
  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when they are more likely to be active.
  • Leave your dog at home or keep it on leash.
  • Hike in groups and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Make noise to alert wildlife to your presence.
  • Keep children and pets close to you.
  • Keep campsites clean.  Sleep 100 yards from cooking areas.
  • Store food in animal-proof containers.
  • Do not approach or feed wildlife.  Prey attracts predators. Avoid baby wildlife.
  • Be aware that animal calls and whistles can attract a cougar.

If you encounter a cougar, stay calm and stand your ground.  Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.  Maintain direct eye contact, back away slowly.  If the cat acts aggressively, make yourself look big by raising your arms and yelling.  Do not show fear, crouch down, turn your back, or run.  If attacked, fight back.  Report all attacks to 9-1-1 as soon as possible.


Fur Identification Challenge

Several years ago we brought you the feather identification challenge and it continues to be one of the most popular blog articles we’ve posted.  So… for those of you up to the challenge, lets see who knows their fur:

beaver fur

coyote fur

racoon fur

mule deer fur


bobcat fur


Here are your only hints:

All of these mammals can be seen at the Cove.

#1 is related to the porcupine

#2, and 3 are commonly seen near campgrounds

#4 is from the Cervidae Family

#5 is rarely seen but lives here

Post your answers in the comments section and check back in one week for the answers!! Good luck and thanks for playing!! :)

What Is The Cove Made Of?

David Pearson VEA 2015

Notice the straight line of rimrock behind David’s head.

David Pearson, Visitor Experience Assistant, has a passion for geology and has been sharing The Cove’s volcanic past with campers this summer.  For those of you who can’t come to David’s evening campfire programs, here is just a glimpse of what The Cove is made of…

The Geology of where the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius rivers meet is fascinating indeed. When in these canyons, one can’t help but notice the different layers in the walls and wonder how they formed. The geologic history of the area goes back 50 million years. However, most of what we are able to see within the cannon walls dates back about 10-12 million years ago. There are three prominent formations that stick out; the Deschutes Formation, the Rimrock Basalt and the Intracanyon Basalt. The oldest of the three is the Deschutes Formation. This is the softer lighter layers in most cases, but it can also be dark grey. In it we see layers of ash, pumice, sandstone and river stone conglomerates. The Rimrock Basalt covers most of the very top of all the layers except “The Island” and the bench that the Crooked River Campground is on. Round Butte to the north of the park contributed greatly to the Rimrock Basalt. The average distance between the Rimrock and the water is between 600 – 800 feet.  Notice that the height of the Island is about 200ft lower in elevation than the rest of the canyon walls. That is because these were formed by the Intracanyon Basalt flows that happened after the Rimrock flows in areas of the canyon that had already eroded. As many as 15 different Intracanyon flows happened in rapid succession. These traveled all the way from the Newberry Crater area and started to cool by the time they came in the vicinity of the modern Round Butte Dam. As the lava cooled it created a natural dam and back flowed several miles up the Crooked and Deschutes rivers. The Island is composed entirely from Intracanyon basalt. It is the columnar jointing (or palisades) on the Island that inspired the name for the park. The basin that The Cove Palisades lies in has throughout its geologic history been covered by lava, water and ash. The relentless force of these rivers has repeatedly eroded all this ash and lava and carved out the beautiful canyons we see today. If you take a moment you can read the walls and take a trip back in time.

DSC_0074On the left notice the softer lighter layers of the Deschutes Formation. This had already begun to erode significantly by the time of the Intracanyon Basalt follows that we see on the right.

It’s Almost Time for a Blue Moon

July 31, 2015 at 3:43 am Pacific Standard Time

(Culver, Jefferson County, OR (Longitude W121° 13′, Latitude N44° 31′)

Blue Moon over Mt. Hood (oregonlive 2012)

Blue Moon over Mt. Hood (oregon live 2012 – last blue moon)


Approximately every 33 months you will witness a “blue moon.” No, the moon won’t turn sapphire, it is a phenomenon that takes place when there are two full moons in the same calendar month.

The term “once in a blue moon” has historically had a number of different meanings. The exact origins are unknown but thought to be a recognizable phrase for more than four hundred years. An older definition according to the Maine Farmer’s Almanac, a “blue moon” occurs when there are three full moons in a season (winter, spring, summer or fall); but there is a very rare occurrence when enough high altitude particles, from a volcanic eruption, ice crystals or forest fire, are in the air that does actually give the moon a blue-ish cast.

If 3 am is too early (or late) for you, you can see 99% of it again Friday night at 8:35 pm (PST) but don’t miss it, the next blue moon will not show it’s face until 2018.

Friday, July 31 – If you are visiting the Cove Palisades, we will have a blue moon interpretive program at the Crooked River Amphitheater at 9 pm with telescope viewing and a night hike starting at the Deschutes Camp Coyote Amphitheater at 8:30 pm.

Bungee Jumping at Crooked River Gorge

“Crooked River High Bridge” by Cacophony

There is a new adventure in Central Oregon guaranteed to get your blood pumping! High above the Crooked River Gorge visitors will be able to jump from the historic High Bridge located at the Peter Skene Ogden Wayside between Terrebonne and Culver.  Central Oregon Bungee Adventures will be securing its bungee cords to a truck with a custom-built platform that extends out over the western edge of the High Bridge. This beautiful spot allows jumpers to experience a drop of more than 200 feet, then be reeled back in.  If you are worried you’ll miss the scenery as you hurdle through the air, screaming at the top of your lungs, don’t worry, photos and video of your jump will be available when you are back on solid ground.

The upper part of the Crooked River Gorge is made of 300 foot columnar basalt cliffs eroded by the Crooked River since the Newberry volcanic eruption 1.2 million years ago.  Due to the river, there is a semi-lush feel to the gorge even in the summer time when temperatures can soar over 100 degrees.  There is a variety of wildlife including deer, rabbits, hawks, osprey, eagles, and vultures.  You can see both Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood from the park.  It is a beautiful place to take photographs or watch the sunset.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department operates the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint, including the historic High Bridge. Designed by Conde B. McCullough 1926 , the steel arch bridge has a total length of 464 feet with a main span of 330 feet. The deck is 295 feet above the canyon floor. It has been restricted to pedestrian use only since traffic on U.S. Highway 97 moved to the Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge just to the east in 2000.

David Slaght, manager of the viewpoint for OPRD, said he rejected more than two dozen requests for commercial bungee jumping from the High Bridge before Scott approached him.  “I think he’s a very intelligent guy and came to State Parks with a very intelligent proposal rather than just an idea up front,” Slaght said.  Under the agreement between Scott and the State, Scott will pay 5% of his revenues to OPRD.  Slaght said his department plans to re-evaluate the agreement at the end of next summer, and decide if bungee jumping should continue at the site.


Owner James Scott, longtime bungee jumper, BASE jumper and skydiver is an avid extreme sport enthusiast with years of experience.  Scott and his experienced team will open for business on August 1st every day of the week. For more information, you can email or call Central Oregon Bungee Adventures LLC. at jump@oregonbungee.com or 541-668-5867.  (website is currently under construction.)

4th of July flyer 2014

4th of July 2014 madras parade 014

J. R. Beaver will be in the Madras 4th of July Celebration at Sahalee Park – 241 SE 7th St
Madras, OR

Elks breakfast 7 – 10 am.  Parade begins at 10 am.  Entertainment, Music, Food, and Fun for the whole family 11:30 – 2 pm.

The Cove Rattler


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