Little Blitzen River

  • Easy (to Donner und Blitzen River)
  • 5.6 miles round trip
  • 400 feet elevation loss
  • Open late May to late November
  • Use: hikers, horses

  • Moderate (to 4-Mile Camp)
  • 8.2 miles round trip
  • 900 feet elevation gain
  • Open June to mid-November

Riddle me this: How many bachelor cowboys does it take to create a historic ranch district? The answer is three, if we’re talking about the Riddle Brothers Ranch along the Little Blitzen River. Three brothers—Fred, Ben, and Walt Riddle—built plank-and-log ranchhouses on Steens Mountain in the early 1900s. The trio died childless, and the Bureau of Land Management later bought the area. The partially restored ranches recall a simpler, Old West lifestyle, with kerosene lamps, woodstoves, and barns full of horse gear.

The ranch area also serves as a starting point for hikers exploring trails along the Little Blitzen River. An easy 1.5-mile path downstream from Fred Riddle’s cabin is popular with fly fishermen and hikers with children. A longer route up Little Blitzen Gorge prowls the rugged high country of Steens Mountain.

The Riddle brothers were the third generation of the pioneer family that founded the town of Riddle, south of Roseburg. Fred, Ben, and Walt raised mules, herded them south to the rail line at Winnemucca, and sold them to the US Army cavalry. They raised cattle and irrigated hayfields. They brewed moonshine, read books, played records on a Victrola, and complained about who had to do the cooking. Fred kept 40 cats, feeding them six gallons of milk a day.

Fill your car’s gas tank before setting out from Burns. Then take Highway …

Other Options

Four-Mile Camp makes a good day-hike goal, but if you …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.