South Mesa Field Notes

  • The plants on this mesa are larger than the plants on the other one
  • There are many small ridges and valleys on this mesa
  • Each valley contains a slightly different ecosystem, with larger plant species and sage brush, which is not present elsewhere on the mesa
  • There are shallow pothole formations scattered throughout the mesa
  • The small flies are different than the ones on the ground.  These are about the same size but they are red with slightly green iridescent wings
  • Some of the small  red shrubs have golden yellow flowers
  • The cows hoof prints offer a shelter for spiders to build there webs in
  • A section of the cliff is in the process of calving off, there is a large crack running about 20 feet down.
  • Trails at the bottom of the valley look like water marks- areas of no growth
  • To the east, the far shore of Deep lake can be made out.  To the west are the mountains over-looking dry falls.
  • The cracks between sizable rocks are large enough that water cannot be retained.  This prevents the growth of anything but lichens.

Small shrubs and grasses

The vegetation consists of small shrubs, usually no more than 12″ tall, and grasses. There are two primary types of shrubs visible; one with a reddish brown hue and the other a greenish tan. The grass is mostly dry, and tan in color.


Several birds can be heard, generally with short calls. They may be nesting along the cliff face, or perhaps in clumps of shrubs and trees that are visible at a distance.  Our view also overlooks a marshy stream feature that provides habitat for many animals.


The soil seems fine and powdery, with a reddish brown hue. There are many small rocks, 1/8″ – 1/2″, as well as larger pebbles and stones. Larger rocks are more sporadic in their placement.


Looking south, the plateau extends as far as I can see. Nearby, there are channels eroded from the bedrock. These channels range from 6′-20′ deep, and 15′-50′ wide. Larger convergences are not directly visible, but were encountered on our hike to this location.

Large Features

To our northwest, and around to the southwest, is a large distant ridge. The ridge shows signs of massive shearing, and many streams are left hanging as waterfalls.

Deep Lake is visible to the southeast, as well as the pothole and channels that we visited on the first day.

Looking northeast across the valley, I see the rock slope trail that took us to the top of the mesa, on our way to the outcropping (dubbed ‘La Mesa’). The base camp is also visible, as is Umatilla rock and the saddle.

To the south is generally smooth, slightly channeled terrain. There are occasional jutting rock formations. These formations seem to be less than 50′ tall.


The channel is approximately 10′ deep. Large stones, 6″ – 2′, cover the noddom and sides. There are piles of these stones.

Several types of shrubs grow in the channel, including sage. Most of the shrubs range between 1′ and 5′ tall. They are generally not tall enough to be visible from a distance, as they are shorter than the edges of the channel. Several dead shrubs have left twisting limbs and branches.


The rock face seems to have been eroded away in sections where the channel meanders close to the edge of the plateau. This has left gaps in some places where water could cascade to the valley floor below. One nearby opening appears to be 30′ to 50′ across.

Hoof prints

On the level ground, near the channel, we notice hoof pronts from grazing cattle. Some of the prints are sunken 2″ – 4″ into the ground, indicating that there may have been a decent amount of moisture in the soil at some time.

Lichens and moss

Many of the nearby stones are spotted with various colors of moss. The colors are primarily amber, green, and occasionally dapples of red.


The wind feels to be rolling in from west northwest. It is generally still or faint.


The sky is overcast, and the air seems to be increasing in humidity. To the northwest, there are a few patches of blue sky along the horizon.

Clouds to the west

To the west, clouds seem to be lined up along the large land mass, and may spill over. These gathered clouds, however, do not seem to threaten our location, as the general motion of the sky is slow and southward. The clouds would seemingly flank our camp.

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