They call it the Oregon Outback. Highway 31 crosses it beautifully and intersects with U. S. Highway 395. Highway 395 continues south all the way to the Mojave Desert and north to the Canadian border. I still want to traverse more of this highway, especially the northbound portion that passes the Abert Rim, goes through the cowboy capital of Oregon at Pendleton, and continues on to Washington’s eastern city of Spokane.
There are many worthwhile attractions on Highway 31 not the least of which is miles of pleasant scenery. The highway itself begins south of La Pine and intersects with 395 at Valley Falls, 22 miles north of the town of Lakeview. The last kiosk travelers can learn from on Highway 31 is about the Abert Rim. Highway 395 follows this Rim north. The Abert Rim is a steep cliff or fault scarp made from frequent lava flow. Abert is 30 miles long, 2,500 feet high, and an impressive sight. Describing it further gets tediously geological.
This Rim area was once a land of active volcanos and remains an earthquake zone. It has experienced many earthquakes over the years as its lakes mostly dried up. Today it’s a volcanic landscape with roaming cattle, and it’s full of ancient lake beds no longer containing water.
Today this part of Oregon is sparsely populated, but it was once swarming with Native Americans who were displaced by settlers after the explorers left. It segued from desert grasslands to vast ranches, farms, sawmills, and settled towns that are now few and far between. The ranches and farms remain. Local farmers grow alfalfa and other commodities that are prized in places like Japan. Today’s remaining farmers specialize in dryland farming. Cattle chomping grass but no feed lots remain as long as the rain falls and grass develops. Many settlers came but left.
Six miles off of Highway 31 is the town of Fort Rock. There is a pioneer museum here among the preservation-minded citizens. Several historic area buildings have been relocated here to protect them. This museum has limited hours, and the Tripadvisor folks are big fans of what has been done. The growing village and museum are only opened from May to September and from Thursday to Sunday. If you can be there in these limited times, it’s supposed to be worth seeing. We were not that fortunate on this trip. One of the buildings that has been moved here is St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. We will stop to see the Homestead Village Museum and the restored buildings another time.
The road to Fort Rock continues past the town and passes many farms as it makes a loop of more than 50 miles that can include The Christmas Valley and its sand dunes, a state park, some craters, an ice cave, and lots of buttes if you have the time and inclination to see more before returning to Highway 31. Ruth & I stopped at the peaceful Lodge at Summer Lake and admired the Chewaucan River at Paisley without sampling its Wild Redband Trout that have survived in this River’s water since Ice Age Lakes were common.
This is seasonally dry land for sure. The Oregon town of Salem gets 40 inches of rain in a normal year. Paisley gets 11.