Amid the dry scrublands of Central Oregon lie two engineered wetland oases - Mayfield Pond and Reynolds Pond. The source of water for these man-made reservoirs is the Deschutes River, some 12-20 miles away, via canals and ditches maintained by the Central Oregon Irrigation District. Both lie within the boundaries of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and are accessible to the public - for better or worse...
Mayfield Pond is about halfway between Bend and Alfalfa, Oregon, accessible only by rugged two-track roads. Despite - or perhaps because of - its remote location, the land around the pond has an accumulation of beer cans, trash, spent shotgun shells and shards of clay pigeons.
Irresponsible dumping aside, the pond provides habitat for marsh birds such as this yellow-headed blackbird (xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) and other wildlife, as well as spectacular vistas.
Farther down the road is Reynolds Pond, about a mile south of Alfalfa, Oregon. Popular with locals for fishing, hiking and swimming, it is a refuge for ducks, geese, herons, and even an occasional otter.
Even in the starkness of winter, the pond possesses a haunting appeal.
To reach Mayfield Pond, head 9 miles east of Bend on Alfalfa Market Road and watch carefully on the north side of the road for an access point. Be sure to have a sturdy vehicle with good ground clearance as there are substantial rocks and tree roots in the road (not to mention large mudholes after the Spring thaw). Follow the main two-track trail about 3/4 mile into the public land. (Try to ignore the areas where household appliances have been shot up for target practice.) The road opens into a wide space for parking, or you can drive around the south side of the pond to the other end, then follow other, longer, routes out of the area if you're feeling adventurous. A hike around the pond is a quarter to just under a half mile, depending on how closely you follow the water's edge and how full the pond is.
Reynolds Pond is 1.5 miles south of Alfalfa, Oregon. Drive about 18 miles west of Bend on Alfalfa Market Road, then turn right at Walker Road and follow it south until it bends west. Instead of following the bend, continue south past the recycling center and follow the trail that bears in an easterly direction, crossing the cattle guard in the process. About a half-mile down the trail, you will arrive at the pond. The eight-acre reservoir has an easy hiking path around the pond.
Photo credits: Dana Kenneth Johnson.