La Mesa Field Notes

  • The mesa is directly East of Umatilla Rock, it offers an amazing view of the valley and Dry Falls Lake.
  • The plateau landscape is very similar to the valley, except that the rocks and shrubs are a lot smaller.
  • The plant life here is much more exposed to the elements.
  • The lichen up here is very varied, ranging from caustic yellow, to pale green, to ash black.
  • There is light brown soil underneath the layer of rocks.
  • Covering some of the soil is a small moss like plant that has star shaped flowers.
  • The iron in the basalt here is very oxidized, even when I broke open a rock I found pockets of red.
  • The rocks along the edge of the cliff face are very unstable and make it an uneasy experience to sit near the edge.
  • The epic beauty of this place is very visible here.
  • The mesa was covered in small to medium size basalt rocks and lots of small shrubs, the same species that existed in the valley minus the sage brush.
  • There was lots of dry moss waiting to be reconstituted
  • There was some red lichen that I had not encountered anywhere else
  • Although it looked like a hard place to survive, so exposed to the elements, we found some small droppings scattered throughout the area, possibly from a rodent
  • Underneath the rocks there is pale brown soil, very fine almost like dust
  • One has an amazing view from up here, Umatilla rock, Dry Falls Lake, Green Lake, Red Alkaline lake and the potholes can all be viewed from up here
  • There are several different bird calls, I can identify a crow, swallows and possibly the call of an eagle or hawk.
  • The sides of the cliff are somewhat stable, aside from the top layer of basalt rocks waiting to join there brothers on the valley floor

Several bird sounds and movements

Bird calls emenate from the walls of the small canyon near which I sit. I notice the flutter of wings as birds fly along the rock face opposite where I am sitting.

Little to no Soil

Between the rocks, there seems only to be a gradient of smaller pebbles. Very little organic matter has rooted among the rocks on this plateau, aside from occasional grasses and shrubs such as sage.

Cars, planes, and several gunshots

The sounds of civilization are apparent at this location, and include the drone of distant cars, occasional semi-truck deceleration, a few large air planes, and several distant gunshots. The roadway is visible, but distant, across the main valley.

Umatilla Campground

From our vantage point, we can see Umatilla rock and the cabins where we are based. Roughly to the north are alkaline lake and a recreational lake (Dry Falls Lake). Boats and kayaks are visible on the recreational lake.

Bird Perches

Perching places are visible around the rock faces, indicated by white layers of droppings. I wonder how many generations of birds have used these same perching rocks and nesting crevasses.

Dry Falls

From where I sit, a large expanse of Dry Falls is visible. I am particularly nearby a large channel in the face of the rocks. I am struck by the immense volume of water that would flow through this channel. The falls are vast, and I ponder the possibility of nearly 300 feet of water submerging this landscape during the superflood.


  • There is very little visible soil
  • ranging from pebble size to two feet wide
  • vegetation is very sparse here as opposed to the walk up here
  • vegetation becomes sparse about 100 feet from the edge
  • to the north east is alkali lake
  • to the north is green lake
  • camp is south south-west from here


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