Denman Wildlife Area offers delightful year-round riding, excellent bird watching, and a glimpse back into this area’s colorful history – and it‘s all less than 10 miles east of Medford. Denman Wildlife Area is located just off the Crater Lake Hwy. (Hwy. 62) in White City. This woodsy tract of land feels much more remote than its close proximity to town would suggest. It is bordered by the Rogue River and TouVelle State Park on the west side, bisected by Little Butte Creek, and dotted with many small ponds.
There are only two official trails at Denman: an interpretive trail for hikers only, and a horse trail. But don’t let the lack of trails stop you from riding here. There are plenty of dirt roads to explore, and you can ride cross-country. The change in vegetation from the riparian creek sides to the drier uplands is remarkable, and the seasonal wildflowers are a delight.
This area has a fascinating history. During World War II the US Army operated Camp White, a training center at what is now White City, Oregon. At its peak the camp housed 40,000 soldiers (including infantry, medical, engineering, and artillery units) plus German prisoners of war. After the war the facility was decommissioned and much of the land was sold. However, the US Government gave two parcels to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for a wildlife area.
As you ride at Denman, keep an eye out for reminders of its Camp White origins. You may see old ammunition bunkers set deep into the hillsides, stacks of rusting equipment, and maybe a crumbling foundation or two.
While Denman’s primary purpose is to provide habitat for migrating and nesting waterfowl and upland birds, it is a wildlife area, not a wildlife preserve. This means that all sorts of non-motorized recreational uses are permitted. In addition to horseback riding you can watching wildlife, picnic, hike, mountain bike, train dogs, hunt, fish, and trap. (Hunting season is September to January, and trapping season is November to March.)
The official horse trail at Denman departs from the north side of Touvelle Road about 1 mile from the entrance gate. The trail runs up and along a low hillside for 0.9 mile (stay to the right of the wire fence), then meets an old Camp White road. From here you can follow the road in either direction or veer off onto any of the single-tracks that lead toward Little Butte Creek, eventually looping back to either Touvelle Road or Agate Road. Use caution if you decide to cross Little Butte Creek, because it can have deep pockets that are hard to spot.
All trails and roads are shared with hikers, mountain bikes, and dogs on leash.
Ride Statistics: There is plenty of terrain at Denman for pleasant and varied day rides. Trail elevations range from 1,200 to 1,300 feet. Stock water is available on the trail.
Getting to Denman Wildlife Area: From Medford, take Hwy. 62 (Crater Lake Hwy.) north for 6.5 miles. In White City, turn left on Agate Road. In 1.8 miles, turn left on Touvelle Road and drive through the locked gate. (You can obtain a free key, which you can keep, from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office on East Gregory Road in White City.) The horse trail departs from the north side of Touvelle Road about 1 mile west of the gate. You can turn around and park at the west end of Touvelle Road, about 1.5 miles from the gate, or at a road junction just past where the horse trail leaves Touvelle Road.
Trailhead Facilities: Parking for several trailers. No facilities. No fee.
More Information: Denman Wildlife Area is featured in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2014)