The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has purchased 2,400 acres along the lower John Day River between Wasco and Condon as a step toward creating what could become Oregon’s largest state park.
The nonprofit Western Rivers Conservancy bought the 8,114-acre Murtha Ranch and an 8,000-acre grazing lease last year and is working with the state to restore the habitat and make the property accessible to the public. The state paid $2.3 million to the conservancy for the first 2,443 acres in September and plans to use lottery funds to buy the remaining deeded acreage over several years, and bring the entire 16,000 acres of riverfront and grasslands into the state parks system.
The river running through the property hosts the largest remaining wild spring and fall chinook runs in northeast Oregon and has the healthiest run of wild summer steelhead in the Columbia basin. The state is developing plans for the property, which could open as a state park as early as 2013.