Diamond Loop Country Byway - Oregon Scenic Drives


As you travel the Diamond Loop Back Country Byway you'll find a patchwork of high desert terrains. From the deep blues of mountain vistas and the dusky sage-covered hills to the red rimrock canyons and the grassy reaches of marshes and valleys, 69 miles of new adventures wait for you.

If you're a wildlife watcher, keep an eye out for mule deer and pronghorn antelope. And bring along your binoculars to spot the waterfowl, shorebirds. hawks and eagles that traverse the Pacific Flyway through the area.

Whether you're exploring a lava flow, stopping at small historic towns, or passing the ranches scattered throughout the valleys between the Steens and Riddle mountains, you'll travel back country roads that lead to attractions right out of the "Old West."

You can start at three different points:

near Princeton on State Highway 78 (north)the junction of State Highway 205 and Diamond Lane (west)Frenchglen on State Highway 205 (south)Check the map, then head out to explore! Before you go, make sure you're gassed up and have your munchies on hand. You can fuel up and stock the cooler at the Diamond and Frenchglen Stores. Diesel fuel is also available at the Diamond Store.

Round Barn

Round Barn, built in the late 1870's or early 1880's, was used to break horses during long, hard winters in eastern Oregon. Designed and built by Peter French, the colorful manager of the historic Frenchglen Livestock Company, the structure is located on the Barton Lake Ranch in Happy Valley. The barn's unusual design is perfectly suited to its purpose. It is 100 feet in diameter featuring a 60-foot round stone corral surrounded by a 20-foot wide outer circle paddock with an umbrella-type center truss and centrally supported rafters.

Kiger MustangsThe Kiger mustangs, thought to be one of the purest herds of Spanish mustangs existing in the wild today, may be the direct descendants-of the Spanish Barb horses brought to North America in the late 16th century. Among their unique physical characteristics are dun and buckskin colored coats, zebra stripes on knees and hocks, hooked ear tips, and fine muzzles.

The Bureau of Land Management has developed a wild horse viewing area accessible to high clearance vehicles from Happy Valley Road and passable only in dry weather. The Kigers and other mustangs can occasionally be seen at BLM's wild horse corrals . Tours of the facility, located on U.S. Highway 20/395 a few miles west of Hines, can be arranged at the Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office in Hines.

Town Of Diamond

Diamond, a small ranching community named for Mace McCoy's diamond brand, was established as a major supply center for ranchers. sheep men, and travelers. At its peak, the town had a population of about 50. Today, the town is almost deserted except for the newly renovated Hotel Diamond, the school, a modern community building, and a few residences. A row of 100-year-old poplar trees still shade the McWilliams' home. A stone building constructed by Charlie Hawkins still stands to remind us of bygone days. It once served as a store, post office, community meeting place and dance hall.

Diamond Craters

Diamond Craters, an Outstanding Natural Area of 17,000 acres, has some of the most diverse basaltic volcanic features in the nation clustered within a small, accessible area. Also named for Mace McCoy's diamond brand, the area displays an entire range of eruptions possible in basaltic volcanism. This volcanic area was formed some time in the last 25,000 years, with some of the eruptions taking place as late as 17,000 years ago. Following along a self-guided tour, you'll be able to identify craters, vents, cinder cones, spatter cones, lava tubes, driblet spires, a graben and water-filled maar.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The upper Blitzen Valley section, including the P Ranch was added in 1935. The refuge is a favorite destination for bird watchers. Approximately 220 species of birds including migrating waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds --can be found at the refuge during various times of the year. Stop at refuge headquarters for more detailed information.

Town Of Frenchglen

In the mid-1920's, the Eastern Oregon Livestock Company urged the development of a townsite in the upper Blitzen Valley because an increasing number of travelers were coming to their P Ranch headquarters for aid and accommodations. A post office was established for the community, then called Somerange, in 1923.

In 1930, the name of the post office was changed to Frenchglen. The new name honored well-known, local cattle baron, Peter French and his father-in-law, Dr. Hugh James Glenn, the California wheat king. French purchased a 185,000-acre landholding to establish his cattle range. Today the town still has a post office, school and several residences. The hotel, which still accommodates travelers, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For further information, contact:

Bureau of Land Management
Burns District Office
HC 74- 12533 Hwy. 20 West
Hines, Oregon 97738

(541) 573-4400

Nearby Attractions:While you're in the area, you can stop by and visit the birds at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuges, where you can also find lodging and food. You can continue your driving exploration of Oregon's high desert on the Steens Mountain Loop. But at some point, hikers will want to get out of their car and do some on-foot exploration of the Steens Mountain Wilderness Study Area.

Move on to:
Oregon's Steens Mountain Steens Mountain Loop Road Diamond Craters Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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