The Roads The McKenziePass/Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway follows
the path of an 1860s 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 snow fields, providing a stark black and white contrast. This Byway boasts the highest concentration of snowcapped vol-
canoes (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 By-
way 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 West Cascades Scenic 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 audio cassette that describes attractions at- tractions 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 rep- lica 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.
at Clear Lake, about 18 miles east of McKenzie Bridge. The navi- gable reach of the river begins at Olallie Boat Launch, located east of McKenzie Bridge at Olallie Campground. Several campgrounds that include day use picnic areas are located
along the river corridor. The 26.5-mile long McKenzie River National Recreation Trail closely follows the river. Sanitation facilities are lo- cated at all boat launches; however, river users are asked to pack out all their trash. The upper portion of the river between Paradise Campground and
Blue River is more technical, requiring some skill to navigate between boulders and Class II-III rapids. The lower McKenzie, below Leaburg Dam, is calmer, with mostly Class II riffles and one exciting Class III run. It is state law that each person carry a life preserver for use when
The headwaters of the McKenzie River begin with the Great Springs
Recreationists have over 50 different trails to choose from within the McKenzie River Ranger District, ranging from low level hiking routes that follow waterways (and are accessible year ‘round) to higher elevation pathways that may not thaw out until July. Within that range are two National Scenic Trails. The 26-mile long McKenzie River Trailis often rated #1 in the
U.S. by mountain bikers. Permits are not required on the trail, where several log bridges cross tributaries of the McKenzie River. The northernmost access point to the trail is located at milepost 2
of the Clear Lake Cutoff (Hwy. 126). The lower sections of the trail are accessed at milepost 52 of the McKenzie Highway, just west of the McKenzie River Ranger Station. Lower sections of the path pass through 600-year old Douglas-fir forests, while upper sections of the trail are routed near spectacular waterfalls and lava flows. The popular 1/2-mile long Lava River Interpretive Trail follows
an old pioneer route near where astronauts tackled the tough terrain before going to the moon. It is located next to the Dee Wright Ob- servatory, which was constructed out of lava rock by by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. People interested in learning more about the won-
floating the river; a noncompliance fine might otherwise be levied by the Oregon State Police. Only permitted river outfitters and guides are authorized to operate commercially on the upper McKenzie River, under special use permit with the Willamette National Forest. Professional guides will provide the equipment, experience, knowledge and skills necessary to safely
and enjoyably navigate the river. Classification of Rapids When navigating a river with whitewater rapids, it is important
to have an idea of what to anticipate. To clarify this process, all whitewater rapids are rated on a scale of Class I to Class VI. A Class I rapid is considered the easiest and safest to navigate, where as Class VI rapids are the most difficult and dangerous. Classification of whitewater rivers is not an exact science, and may vary with fluc- tuating water levels. The upper portion of the McKenzie River, for example, is more difficult to navigate later in the summer from Olal- lie to Paradise, because rocks and boulders have less water flowing over them, making them more difficult to maneuver over or around. Some rapids may be more difficult for kayaks than rafts, and vice versa. Therefore, classification systems should be used as a guide only. The upper McKenzie River, as with most navigable rivers is a combination of the classifications and has varying degrees of dif- ficulty and challenge on different segments. Class I - Moving water with few riffles and small waves. There are generally few obstructions or obstacles to maneuver around. Class II - Rapids with smaller waves, usually with a defined channel that is obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering may be required. Class III - Rapids with higher, and irregular waves, often with
Trees offer contrasts to lava flows on the McKenzie/Santiam Pass.
narrow passages that require precise maneuvering. Some scouting may be required to determine best passage and changed conditions due to fluctuations in water level or natural hazards such as downed trees.
ders of old-growth Douglas-fir forests can choose from two trails - both of which have informative viewpoints describing the rich ecosystem of the Northwest. The Lookout Creek Trail travels about 3.5 miles through unbroken old-growth forest along the lower slopes of Lookout Mountain. Nearby a 1-mile long trail accesses the top of Carpenter Mountain, site of a restored fire lookout with far-ranging views of the Cascade Range. The Delta Old Growth Trail is a short botanical walk
that winds through a grove of century-old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees. In the wintertime cross country skiers, snowshoers,
or snowmobilers can continue their outdoor activities by heading out from one of the five public Sno Parks serving the area. The routes range from the 11.7-mile long Cross-District Trail to the 1.4-mile long Little Nash Trail.
Native rainbow, often called “McKenzie redsides,” occur in the mainstem McKenzie upstream to Tamolitch Falls and in the lower portions of medium and large tributaries above Leaburg Dam (Indian, Gate, Marten, Deer, Quartz, and Horse creeks and Blue River, South Fork McKenzie, and Smith River). Legal-size hatchery rainbow trout are stocked in the mainstem, including Leaburg Lake, from Bellinger Landing (River Mile 19) to the Forest Glen Landing (RM 53.5) and in Blue River above Blue River Reservoir. The name “cutthroat” is derived form the two red slash marks
or streaks on the underside of the lower jaw. On some fish this mark may be indistinct or lacking. Cutthroat trout are ubiquitous throughout McKenzie River and the rest of the basin, living in most perennial streams, including areas above Tamolitch Falls and small, higher gradient tributaries not inhabited by rainbow trout. Hatchery produced cutthroat trout originating from Hackleman
Creek in the upper McKenzie watershed are released into some small, high elevation lakes. Small cutthroat rear for several years in the tributaries and then migrate to the McKenzie River. They rear in the McKenzie until they are about 10 to 12 inches long and then return to the tributaries in early spring to spawn. Many live to spawn again. Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are not native to the McKenzie
Basin. Naturalized brook trout populations in streams in the McKenzie Basin are often locally abundant and composed of small but mature fish. Brook trout have established naturalized populations in Hackleman Creek, the upper mainstem McKenzie from Clear Lake to Trail Bridge Reservoir, and in the upper reaches of Horse Creek, Blue River and the South Fork McKenzie. Whitefish are native to the McKenzie Basin and are one of the
most abundant fish in the mainstem McKenzie. One population is confined to the South Fork McKenzie above Cougar Dam, and the other is found in the mainstem McKenzie up to Trail Bridge Dam and includes the South Fork McKenzie below Cougar Dam, and the lower portions of larger tributaries such as Gate, Quartz, and Horse creeks and Blue River. Steelhead are not native to the McKenzie River. Summer steelhead smolts have been released each year beginning in 1972. About 95% of the fish returning to the McKenzie River are hatchery produced and can be identified by an adipose fin clip. Smolts are released direct from Leaburg Hatchery just below Leaburg Dam and the returning adults tend to concentrate in this area. Squawfish are found in the lower McKenzie up to Hayden
A log bridge over Lost Creek on the McKenzie River Trail
Bridge, but in warm years may occasionally be found upstream as far as Leaburg Dam. Other varieties of fish found in local waters include include northern pikeminnow, speckled dace, redside shiners, suckers, sculpins, sticklebacks, and lampreys.
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