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The Explorers


lot of time hunting, fishing, and exploring farther and farther up the McKenzie Valley. On May 21, 1847, six weeks before his 18th


birthday, Felix, Jr.


filed a Provisional Land Claim to 640 acres “on the west side of the Cascades fork of the Willamette river about 2 miles below Felix Scotts claim.” The parcel was on the McKenzie north of what is now the city of Springfield. Felix, Sr., had a hand in organizing the Independent Rifle Rangers


to guard wagon trains traveling on the South Road (Applegate Trail) as well as protecting southern Oregon settlements. He got into a fra- cas with Indians in the Pitt River area in 1858 and was killed. The call of the California gold fields lured young Felix south. Luckily, he returned with capital to invest. He took his money back to Missouri and bought cattle, then persuaded his older brother Pre- sley to help him get the herd back to Oregon. Another gold rush in Idaho and eastern Oregon saw young Felix


focus on finding a supply route over the Cascades to supply miners who would pay high prices. Felix got his brother Marion and fifty or more hired men to build a


road up the McKenzie in 1862. Their route followed the floor of the valley as far as what became known as Craig’s (or McKenzie Bridge). Scott’s route followed the north bank to Salt (Belknap) Springs be- fore crossing. It then travelled up Scott Creek to Fingerboard Prairie. From there the road climbed up to Lake Melakwa (near the present dayBoy Scouts summer camp) and on to Scott Lake. Two miles southeast of Scott Mountain a highway marker now


points out where the Scott Trail crossed the highway to the McKenzie Pass. Following an old Indian trail it went around the edges of a lava flow to reach Scott Pass. That area is about three miles southeast of the Dee Wright Observatory on the crest of the McKenzie Pass. From there, the route went down the eastern side of the mountains to Trout Creek, nearing the Sisters plain. The road builders/cattle drivers reached Trout Creek as winter ap- proached. The road was in good enough shape that 900 head of cattle and nine freight wagons could be driven over it, but they knew snow would soon close the route. Felix decided to have workers put up winter quarters near a cave on Trout Creek. That’s how they became the first white men to spend a winter in central Oregon. Felix made his way back to Eugene City to promote the use of the road and to get ready for the coming year’s work in pushing the road


on across central and eastern Oregon. One of the men Felix Scott


hired to build the new road was John T. Craig, a 30-year-old Ohio native who’d come west in 1852. He first settled in the lower McKenzie Valley. Around 1862, Craig built a cabin where he found the place to cross the McKenzie. Craig was single minded about the new crossing over the Cascades. He spent his life connected with it in some way.


Several other companies were


Portions of the old roadbed are still visible in the lava flows.


pear to have been connected with any of them. He moved to Arizona and by the time of his death in 1879 he was extensively engaged in stock raising and the freighting business. Craig remained focused on his dream of building a road. He was


also tring to build a wagon road over the mountains using differ- ent route. Felix Scott doesn’t ap-


one of the owners, and for a time, president of the McKenzie Salt Springs and Des Chutes Wagon Road Company. J. H. Belknap was


Page 4 2012 Bicentennial McKenzie River Recreation Guide


McKenzie River Trail Several access points are available along the entire 26.5 mile


trail. The lower sections of the trail pass through 600 year old Douglas-fir forests, while upper sections of the trail pass waterfalls and lava flows Open through most of the year in its lower reaches, the McKenzie River Trail is home to Oregon grape, salal, huckle- berries, rhododendron and a wide variety of wildflowers. Those making longer treks might make their base camp at Coldwater Cove and then spend the night at Trail Bridge or Para- dise campgrounds. Following closely along the river as well, the McKenzie Highway offers eleven points to access the trail for shorter outings. Though much of the route is moderate going, hiking boots are recommended, particularly when traveling through portions of the


lava flows. Bicyclists are reminded to dismount and


walk their bikes along the Waterfalls Trail or stay on the McKenzie River Trail as an alternate route. Expect heavy congestion near Paradise Campground, Clear Lake Loop and the Waterfalls Loop trails.


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