Indigenous people called area the “Smiles of the Gods” but settlers named it Devil’s Garden

Ponderosa Pines in spring on Devil's Garden.

Where the wild ones live

The Devil’s Garden lies in the heart of the Modoc Plateau, according to the Forest Service. The Modoc Plateau is a mile-high expansive prehistoric lava flow, with areas of sparse vegetation, rough broken lava rock, juniper trees, and sagebrush flats in a semi-arid region covering about a half-million acres. The plateau is thought to have been formed approximately 25 million years ago. The name Devil’s Garden was given to the area when the first European settlers traveled to this region in the 1800’s. In contrast, the Native people called the area, “The Smiles of Gods”.

While it’s dry most of the year, in the early spring the Garden often looks like the “land of lakes,” as all of the water holes fill. In the spring, after the snow melt, the rocky Devil’s Garden produces a veritable carpet of wild pink pansies, pink and red owl clover, yellow primroses and pink shooting stars. Purple lupine, yellow mules ear and the shiny green leaves of manzanita complete the rainbow of color that lasts well into the summer.  The farther north you travel, the Garden’s dryness gives way to conifer forests and is home to some of the biggest mule deer in the area.

Ducks on the water of Beeler Reservoir with treelined shore in the background aThe Devil’s Garden lies directly under the Pacific Flyway. During their migration from Alaska and Canada to Mexico, hundreds of thousands of waterfowl use the wetlands as rest stops. Several of the reservoirs on the district are stocked by the California Dept of Fish and Game with bass or trout. The Garden is also shared by Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, turkeys, coyotes and wild horses.

A herd of mares and foals graze the dry, late summer grass.

The Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory is well known across the US for the wild horses it produces. Historically, horses have run on the plateau for more than 140 years. Many of the early horses escaped from settlers or were released when their usefulness as domestic animals ended. In later years, like many areas throughout the west, local area ranchers released their domestic horses out to graze, and then gathered them as they were needed. Not all were ever captured. Learn more about Devil’s Garden wild horses at http://bit.ly/2aGcCsu.

With the passage of the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act (PL 92-195), private horse roundups ended. In 1974, as an initial step toward management, the Forest Service inventoried the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse population for the first time. The Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan, completed in 2013, set an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of a maximum of 402 total horses.

Four of the five developed campgrounds on the Devil’s Garden charge no fees for camping, day use or boat launching. Even so, these facilities rarely fill to capacity and are considered the perfect getaway by the few who venture there.

Information provided by the Forest Service.

Protect Mustangs is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of native and wild horses. www.ProtectMustangs.org




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