Cottonwood Canyon and its Reptiles

This weekend we returned to Cottonwood Canyon for a leisurely desert backpack.  We like coming here because it is consistently dry and beautiful.  There’s abundant wildlife and I even brought my heavy binoculars in hopes of seeing bighorn sheep since there is a large herd in this area.

We drove in right after work on Friday and car camped at the park.  The next morning we hiked back into the John Day river canyon and then turned up into another canyon to a nice camp spot.

It was warm, sunny, and beautiful.  At night the sky was thick with stars.  By day, the trail was thick with snakes.


While we didn’t see a single bighorn, but we did see a shitload of snakes.  Not 100 feet into the trail there was a 3 foot rattlesnake just laying there like he owned it.  It served as a good warning however, and it kept us alert for more.  We saw around 7 other snakes total for the trip including another rattlesnake I damn near stepped on.


It’s a myth that rattlesnakes will give you plenty of warning.  Out of the dozen or so I’ve come across, many alerted me to their presence after I had missed stepping on them by about a foot away or so.  They don’t slither away, either.  They hold their ground and don’t always rattle.  While they are poisonous, I have to remind myself that they aren’t typically fatal.

I saw several different types of snakes and one type of lizard:

  1. Sagebrush lizard?  maybe a Western Fence lizard?


2. Gopher Snake (at the BLM parking lot)

IMG_20170521_1059293. Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

IMG_20170520_1002564. Common Garter Snake

IMG_20170521_1016185. Western Rattlesnake


6. Racer (no pics, too damn fast)

This place is particularly picturesque.  Enjoy some more photos 🙂



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