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MailTribune.com
  • New shelter at Table Mountain sled hill

    But plan to bring your own firewood
  • Sledders, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers have a new place to get warm on Table Mountain.
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  • Sledders, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers have a new place to get warm on Table Mountain.
    A new warming shelter that overlooks the sledding hill now is open, but visitors to the little hut with a stove need to remember that it's BYOW — bring your own wood.
    The shelter is at the Table Mountain Winter Play Area, a hill on Bureau of Land Management lands specifically designed for snow tubing and sledding off Hyatt Lake Road east of Ashland.
    BLM, with help from volunteer Gene Bowling and the Southern Oregon Construction Academy, built the shelter earlier this year. The enclosure allows for views of the entire sledding hill and includes a small wood stove, but no wood is provided.
    Visitors are encouraged to bring only small pieces of wood — up to 6 inches wide and 12 inches long — so the fuel will fit.
    To get to the free play area, take Highway 66 east out of Ashland for 17 miles and turn left onto Hyatt Lake Road at the Green Springs Inn.
    Drive north for 4 miles until you reach the Hyatt Lake Recreation Area, then stay left another 2 miles before finding the winter play area.
    For more information, check the BLM's website at www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/site_info.php?siteid=355.
    Oregon's newest state park has a few dozen new residents, and chances are they'll soon be butting heads with each other over who gets to be king of the mountains overlooking the John Day River.
    Twenty California bighorn sheep were relocated last week to Cottonwood Canyon State Park, a new park along the banks of the lower John Day River, while another 20 sheep went into the Branson Creek drainage of the upper John Day River near the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
    The land purchases and exchanges to create the park were completed last year. It is set to open in 2013.
    As the herds get established in these two locations over the next few years, visitors will find viewing and hunting opportunities for the sheep, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
    Bighorn sheep are native to both areas but disappeared from most of Oregon by the late 1800s due to disease and market hunting. The relocation is part of ongoing efforts to restore bighorn sheep to their native range. Oregon's current bighorn sheep population is about 3,500.
    The sheep released last week were part of a group of 60 that ODFW wildlife biologists captured in the Lower Deschutes and John Day River drainages.
    The final 20 sheep went to the Seminoe Mountains in Wyoming to supplement a release made last year. Wyoming Game and Fish paid for the cost of the capture and transport of the sheep.
    Swapping bighorns among states has been part of a long-term strategy to take sheep from healthy populations and return them to traditional habitat.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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