Shirk Lake Hike

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 2.7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 0’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,200’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle

Plus Points
• Easy walk around a desert wetland complex of grasslands, mudflats and open water
• Historical
Shirk Ranch buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, now abandoned
• Diverse shorebird populations, including avocets, ibises, plovers and sandpipers
• Abundant waterfowl, including coots, grebes, ducks and Canada geese
• Short-eared owls hunting the grasslands, plus red-tailed hawks cruising overhead
• A true desert wilderness feeling, with only the sounds of breezes, birds and stillness

Minus Points
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility around the abandoned ranch buildings
• Water levels fluctuate with the season, so be prepared to skirt wide mud flats

Download (PDF, 429 KB): Photos of Shirk Lake Hike
Download (PDF, 426 KB): Topo Map for Shirk Lake Hike
Download (PDF, 746 KB): Road Map for Shirk Lake Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Shirk Lake Hike
The hike starts at the steel gate with the “Shirk Ranch” sign on it, just west of the main ranch house. Take the opportunity to explore the abandoned ranch buildings, including the main house, bunk houses, root cellar, blacksmith shop, water tower and corrals. However, all the buildings are protected and listed on the National Historic Register, so please don’t deface them or take home souvenirs. Their enjoyment by future generations depends upon your responsibility. Also, be alert for rattlesnakes in the grass or under old boards around the buildings and corrals.

To continue the hike, walk about 50 yards east from the ranch house and climb up the earthen levee surrounding the ranch yard. From here one has views north to the grasslands at the mouth of Guano Creek and south to the open water of Shirk Lake.

The hiking route follows the levee south toward the lake, where the levee ends at a green meadow. From here, it’s easiest to walk south along the dry strip of grassland skirting the lake on the west, taking detours out nearer to the water where possible. By walking between the sage uplands on the west and the mud flats on the east, one can have about a mile of good bird viewing. Eventually, the hike ends at the lake’s southern outlet, an impassable slough cutting through a sage-covered sand dune on the lake’s south end. Return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
From Adel in the southern Warner Valley, drive about 28 miles east on paved Hwy 140, to a wide dirt road with a stop sign joining the highway from the north. This road is about 0.6 miles east of Milepost 49. Don’t be confused by the sign and road for Guano Lake, which turns north about one mile west of the main Guano Valley road you’re looking for.

Please note the Guano Valley road is passable only by high clearance vehicles and ONLY when dry. The road has many deep holes and ruts, which can easily be driven over and around when dry, but are mud traps when wet and boggy. Only single-axle trailers are advised, with a maximum length of about 16’. This area is remote and not often visited, so extra caution and self-responsibility are required.

Going north, the first 2 miles to the Barry Ranch has the worst ruts, as this section is driven in wet weather by the ranch traffic. But once past the fenced holding pens of the Barry Ranch (leave all gates as you find them here), the road is generally flat and smooth for the next 10 miles to the Shirk Ranch — though one has to skirt deep holes and ruts in places, plus negotiate a few rocky spots. Travel time for the full 12 miles from Hwy 140 to the Shirk Ranch was about 2 hours for us, pulling a small travel trailer.

Camping Options
There is no developed campground in the Guano Valley and dispersed camping is the only option, with one's own water, sanitation and trash removal. The most attractive camping area is about one mile north of the Shirk Ranch buildings, just before the road crosses the dry bed of Guano Creek. East of the road here, between the road and the dry creekbed is a grassy flat that can accommodate almost any camping setup — a tent, tent trailer or small travel trailer. The grass here is tall, thick and highly flammable, so campfires are not advised at all in this area.

Agency Contact: Lakeview BLM District, (541) 947-6399

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local federal land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 1/16/13