Crossing onto the Red Desert

05 Dec
Crossing onto the Red Desert

We have just complete our annual trek to the Red Desert with the sheep.  This journey begins around October 1st, each year, as we trail the sheep down from their summer Forest permits.  Since seven bunches of sheep spend the summer on the Forest, this takes some staging.  Each bunch comes into pastures around the Home Ranch headquarters, then each and every ewe is looked at individually. Most of them are keepers.  Some are sold as “good old ewes” who go on to another owner in a milder climate, usually the Midwest.  Those with problems such as “bad bags”, lameness or other complaints of old age become “killers.”  Once a stranger asked me, “Who’d they kill?” looking at them with new respect.  The keepers, after having their lambs weaned, are made up into one of four winter bunches.  They then trail to our fall country, known as Cottonwood, north of Dixon.  In early November, most of them head out for the Badwater Pasture, a checkerboard lease (every other section is private or public).  The sheep, sheepherders, dogs and horses hang out there until time to trail to the winter country on the Red Desert, north of I80.  We move around December 1st each year.  That is our on-date for the winter BLM leases, and is normally about the time we can expect snow on the desert.  Snow is critical since virtually no live water is available, and the sheep depend on eating snow for sustenance during the winter months.  One of the critical days of trailing is the day the sheep cross the overpass above the Union Pacific railroad line, then a couple of miles later, go under I80 at the Creston Junction underpass.  We do this three days in a row, as each bunch passes in its turn.  When they reach their destinations at Cyclone Rim and Chain Lakes, they have walked about 150 miles from their summer pastures.

Waiting for the signal to go

Over the UP line, along with the traffic

No fireworks today

Truck headed south, sheep headed north

Under I80

One way, but it's north, not west

Through the gate, with Pat, Pepe, Richar, Ivan, horses and dogs supervising

Ivan, 27 years old, headed out for his first winter on the desert


Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Animals, Sheep


3 responses to “Crossing onto the Red Desert

  1. Susan Harvey

    December 6, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Brings back memories!

  2. Pat H

    December 14, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    Ivan is an unusual name for a sheepherder. I think of most of them being Peruvian these days. Is he not?


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