July 16, 2012
The Byway follows the path of an 1860’s wagon route. On the west side of the Cascades, visitors will encounter lush Douglas-fir and red cedar forests; on the drier east side, lodgepole pines predominate. In the Fall, lava fields adjoin snowfields, providing a stark black and white contrast.
This Byway boasts the highest concentration of snowcapped volcanoes (and associated glaciers) in the lower 48 states. Broken Top Mountain, Mount Washington and The Three Sisters (among other peaks) tower above the Byway.
Natural qualities of the McKenzie Pass/Santiam Pass Scenic Byway are of national significance. There are outstanding examples of both ancient and recent volcanoes, cinder cones, lava flows, and deep, glaciated canyons. Forests along the Byway contain rare old-growth fir and ponderosa pine, and are home to a great variety of fish and wildlife, including several endangered species, such as bald eagles.
The 220-mile long Byway runs north to south, skirting the upper half of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range. It overlays a portion of the McKenzie/Santiam Byway as well as the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, which connects the McKenzie River area to West Fir and Oakridge.
A free audiocassette that describes attractions attractions along the route is available at the McKenzie River Ranger Station.
The Delta Old Growth Trail provides an opportunity to walk amongst Douglas-firs and Western Red Cedars up to 500 years old and 180 feet tall. Attractions on the route include Box Canyon, site of a log cabin replica of the original guard station (built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1933), and Constitution Grove, which offers a gentle loop trail through a 200-year old forest.
Seventeen miles northeast of McKenzie Bridge is Sahalie Falls, where the McKenzie plunges 100 feet over a basalt cliff. A trail here links to the 26.5-mile McKenzie National Recreation Trail. A few miles north (shortly before the intersection of Highway 126 and Highway 20) is one of America’s clearest lakes - aptly named Clear Lake. Formed 3,000 years ago by a lava flow that blocked the upper McKenzie River, this 120-foot deep lake is so transparent that an underwater forest can be viewed.
This Byway, also known as (U.S. Forest Service Road #19) is the route connecting the McKenzie River Valley and the cities of Oakridge and Westfir. It is part of the much larger West Cascades Scenic Byway. It is a bike-friendly road that provides up-close views of old-growth trees in the Willamette National Forest. A key feature is the Constitution Grove, where the trees bear plaques engraved with the Founding Fathers' names. The route (also known as Forest Service Road 19) is anchored at its southern end by a bike-friendly bed and breakfast.
The Byway travels past Cougar Reservoir and claims along the Roaring River to a 3,600-foot summit at the Box Canyon Camp. It ends in the small city of Westfir, near the original headquarters for a series of lumber companies, across the street from the Office Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Oregon.
McKenzie River Reflections