Whether by car, motorcycle, bike or foot, the McKenzie Highway is one of the most picturesque scenic byways Oregon offers. Here's what we found on a sunny summer day. Imagine what you might see.
Old McKenzie Highway open for 2016 season!
Maintenance crews began plowing the McKenzie Highway in early April in preparation of its opening to motor vehicles this summer.
The highway opened to motor vehicles on Monday, June 20, 2016 for the summer season.
About the McKenzie Highway
The McKenzie Highway (OR 242) travels through Lane, Linn, and Deschutes counties, beginning at the junction with OR 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ending at the junction with US Highway 20 and OR 126 at the City of Sisters.
The McKenzie Highway is part of the McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway. Through part of the project area, OR 242 travels between two federal wilderness areas, and there are many historic, recreational, and scenic features and sites along the route. The boundaries of the Mt. Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness are 66 feet from the highway centerline.
The highway route was originally built with private funds in the 1870's as a wagon toll road. The section between the towns of Blue River in Lane County and Sisters in Deschutes County (which includes the project area) became a Forest Road in 1919 (Oregon State Highway Commission, 1920). The road was relocated and widened in 1920, graded and surfaced between 1920 and 1924, and became a Oregon State Highway in 1925.
The McKenzie Pass Highway became a seasonal scenic highway in 1962 with the completion of the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of OR 126. Even during its tenure as the main route between the southern Willamette Valley and Central Oregon, the narrow, twisting roadway and high elevation (5,325 feet) made the highway too difficult to maintain and keep clear during the winter months.
Since this time, ODOT closes the highway each fall and reopens it in early summer after the snow melts. During the summer, about 300 cars a day travel the highway.
For the most current road conditions for the McKenzie Highway visit TripCheck.com.
Opening and Closing Dates
A list of the opening and close dates for the McKenzie Highway back to 1925 can be found here.
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