Ponds of the High Desert


Water is not your standard amenity in the desert to the east of Bend.

So the few places where it exists in quantity are special.

Reynolds Pond is one of those places. It’s an oasis on the northwest edge of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area.

I took my dog out there, and we had the entire place to ourselves. Just me, a border collie recovering from a couple of rounds at the neuter clinic and about 50 Canada geese paired up and floating around on the muddy-looking water.

At any given time, five or six of the geese would be upside down in the water, feeding below the surface of the pond. From a distance, they looked like penguins bobbing out there in the middle of the 12-acre impoundment.

From a distance, Zeke, who was sporting a stylish plastic collar to keep him from digging at his sutures, probably looked like a four-legged alien or a mobile satellite dish. It’s nesting time. The geese held their ground.

Just south of Alfalfa, Reynolds Pond is a popular swimming hole and fishing spot during the warmer months. Word is, the pond was stocked with largemouth bass and sunfish years ago and they’ve thrived in the murky shallows.

According to the Oregon Bass & Panfish Club, Terrence Bice reeled in a 1-pound-15-ounce redear sunfish from Reynolds Pond on Aug. 1, 1992. The state record still stands.

Greg Currie of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the pond, said the agency built it many years ago for irrigation and recreation.

“Reynolds Pond is a nice place,” said Currie. “It’s starting to get a lot of use.”

For years, the pond was a “local knowledge kind of thing,” he said.

There are no signs leading motorists off Alfalfa Market Road to Walker Road to Reynolds Pond (take Walker to the county landfill substation, follow the dirt road around it and head southeast; it’s less than a mile.)

Reynolds Pond might not be conspicuous from Alfalfa or the Badlands, but it has a presence on the Internet.

Go to www.chuggnutt.com, and you can search out a wistful description of Reynolds Pond written by a person who spent time there as a child. On a return visit 12 years later, the author noted that several barren islands in the pond were now covered with vegetation.

We tromped around the pond on a good firm trail, and I made a mental note to get back this way come summer.

Then we backtracked to nearby Mayfield Pond, which is also administered by the BLM.

Mayfield is to the north off Alfalfa Market Road, about 4.5 miles west (toward Bend) of the little town of Alfalfa and four miles east of Powell Butte Highway.

According to Currie, the pond is used by the Central Oregon Irrigation District for irrigation, by ranchers as a water source for grazing cattle and by waterfowl as wetland habitat.

The BLM built a fence around the pond to discourage mud boggers in their fat-tired rigs from “ripping it up.”

“It gets so much use, it’s been a bit of a management problem for us,” Currie said.

Eventually, the BLM would like to relocate the gravel access road away from the pond and to exclude cattle from the immediate area.

We picked up a map and scouted the pond, which is privately held on the north and west sides. We must have timed it right; there was nobody at Mayfield Pond save for a couple of hunters working the juniper country to the east.

After hiking along the road, we sat and watched the pond for a while. Observe quietly for long enough and you’re sure to see geese, ducks, hawks and maybe even an eagle. Tracks along the muddy shore tell a story of the nocturnal comings and goings of many small animals.

I could tell Zeke wanted to tarry longer by the water, but his person had to get back to town. I promised him we’d get back out this way soon — next time with a fishing rod and a bucket of big old worms.

— Jim Witty

Reynolds Pond is an oasis in the High Desert, on the edge of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area.
Reynolds Pond is an oasis in the High Desert, on the edge of the Badlands Wilderness Study Area.