Clear Lake Loop

Distance: 174 Miles
Time: 5 Hours

The Clear Lake Loop takes the traveler from Eugene up Highway 126 to Highway 20 into Sweet Home, then to Highway 228 to Brownsville and Interstate 5, and back to Eugene.

The entire trip follows major highways along the McKenzie River, past the beautiful Koosah and Sahalie Falls and Clear Lake, through lava flows and down the Santiam Highway 20 past many historic landmarks. The loop is possible all year round, but is exceptionally beautiful in the early summer and fall.

(Please note that many of the forest roads are closed seasonally. Check with the ranger station listed at the end of the loop description to find out current conditions.)

00.0 00.0 Junction Interstate 5 and 105 in Eugene. Take Highway 105 East.

6.5 6.5 Junction with Highway 126. Turn left.

11.7 5.2 Hendrick's Bridge.

11.9 0.2 Hendrick's Wayside is on the right. 37 picnic sites, swimming.

13.0 1.1 Walterville. Nued for Walter Millican, son of George Millican, pioneer stockman and early settler on the McKenzie River.

19.5 6.5 Leaburg Power Plant (Eugene Water & Electric Board).

20.1 0.6 Leaburg.

22.5 2.4 McKenzie River Salmon Hatchery (Oregon State Fish Commission).

24.5 2.0 Bridge to Eugene Water & Electric Board Park. Picnicking. Oregon State Trout Hatchery is on right, across bridge.

26.2 1.7 Goodpasture Covered Bridge. Built in 1938, it spans the McKenzie 165 feet and is one of the two longest covered bridges in Lane County.

26.9 0.7 Vida. Originally know as Gate Creek, the name was chosen for the daughter of the first postmaster, Francis A. Pepiot. The Vida Post Office was established April 12, 1898.

27.1 0.2 One and one-half miles to Weyerhaeuser Park, on left.

29.8 2.7 Ben and Kay Dorris State Park. 10 picnic sites. Rock House, a rock overhang and favorite camping place of early travelers, is located 0.5 mile east of the park.

32.9 3.1 Rennie Public Boat Launch (State).

34.5 1.6 Silver Creek Boat Launch (State).

35.2 0.7 Holman Guard Station (Eastern Lane Fire Protective Assn.).

35.5 0.3 View of Eagle Rock is on the right across the river.

35.7 0.2 Nimrod.

38.0 2.3 Howard Morton Memorial State Park. Rest and picnic area.

38.3 0.3 Finn Rock. Rest Area. One story goes that Finn Rock, a big rock to the right, once stood in the center of the road. Old Pete Finn decided to move it and tied ropes around it. With a team of oxen he managed to pull the rock out of the middle of the road. The grooves that encircle the rock today are evidence of this great feat.

40.2 1.9 McKenzie School District 68.

41.3 1.1 1. Blue River Ranger Station. Headquarters of the Blue River Ranger District, Willamette National Forest.
2. Blue River Reservoir Junction on left. 1.5 miles to Blue River Dam and Reservoir. Built by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 270-foot dam is part of the comprehensive plan for flood control and multiple use of water resources of the Willamette River Basin.
3. Across bridge is the town of Blue River. The community was settled shortly before the turn of the century. The name was taken from the stream which bisects the co-unity, and is called Blue River distinct blue appearance. In the early days Blue River was a vigorous, bustling center concerned with gold mining activities in the adjacent area.

41.7 0.4 Forest Glen. Public boat launch.

44.3 2.6 Blue River Road No. 15 on left. Access to boat launch, camping and picnic facilities on Blue River Reservoir.

45.9 1.6 Cougar Reservoir Junction. 3.7 miles to the 452-foot Army Corps of Engineers dam which has a generating capacity of 25,000 kilowatts. It is a multiple purpose project designed for generation of electric enery, flood control, recreation, irrigation, navigation and alleviation of stream pollution, and is part of the Willamette Valley Project.

47.1 1.2 McKenzie River Drive. To Rainbow.

48.3 1.2 Tokatee Golf Course entrance to the left.

50.6 2.3 McKenzie Bridge Campground (U.S.F.S.). 20 tent and 5 picnic units.

51.1 0.5 McKenzie Bridge.

51.6 0.5 Jenny B. Harris State Park. 10 picnic units.

52.4 0.8 Entering the Willamette National Forest.

53.9 1.5 McKenzie Ranger Station. Headquarters for the McKenzie Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest.

55.3 1.4 Paradise Campground (U.S.F.S.). 64 sites and 4 picnic sites.

56.2 0.9 Junction Highways 126 and 242. Stay left. The old McKenzie Highway over the McKenzie Pass may be taken at this point. For details see McKenzie Pass Loop.

57.2 1.0 Belknap Springs left. These springs were located by explorers in 1859, and called Salt Springs. They were settled by Rollin S. Belknap about 1870. Salt Springs Post Office was established in 1874 with Belknap as postmaster. About 1891, the name was changed to Belknap Springs. To the right there is another route to the old McKenzie Pass Highway.

58.4 1.2 Buck Creek Bridge. A few hundred feet to the south, the old Scott Trail, which follows up Scott Creek, is visible in places. In 1862, Felix Scott, Jr., heading a party of 50 men, took 900 head of cattle and 9 freight wagons over the McKenzie Pass by this route. The trail, formerly an Indian trail, was in use until a lower route was discovered.

63.3 4.9 Olallie Forest Campground (U.S.F.S.). 17 sites.

64.2 0.9 Entering Linn County.

64.7 0.5 Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project. A unique power development on the upper McKenzie River by the Eugene Water and Electric Board. At the upper end of the project, abut 2 miles below Clear Lake, is the Carmen Diversion Dam, which channels the McKenzie River into a diversion tunnel and into Smith Reservoir. A second tunnel channels the combined flows of the McKenzie and Smith Rivers into Carmen Power Plant, which generates up to 80,000 kilowatts of electric power.

65.2 0.5 Smith Reservoir sign on left.

69.1 3.9 Lava flows dating back 3,000 years. The ancient bed of the McKenzie River has been blocked by a number of lava flows creating the spectacular falls for which this area is famous. Lava from Belknap Crater, more than 10 miles away, flowed into the canyon creating Beaver Marsh and Tamolitch Falls as recently as 1,500 years ago.

70.5 1.4 Koosah Falls on left. The name means sky in Chinook jargon. The falls were at one time called the Middle Falls and are the second in a series of three. Tamolitch Falls (Chinook word for towl, or barrel), which are located to the south, were at one time called the Lower Falls. They are accessible by the trail only. If you go left 0.2 mile after leaving the highway, Ice Cap Campground (U.S.F.S.) is on the left with 22 campsites and 2 picnic sites. Go 0.1 mile to the right from the campground entrance at this point and you will come to a parking area which gives you access to Koosah Falls.

70.9 0.4 Sahalie Falls. Left to parking lot. Sahalie is derived from the Chinook word meaning high. These falls were at one time known as the Upper Falls.

72.4 1.5 Clear Lake turnoff. 0.5 mile to the lake. Clear Lake is a 1.5-mile long crystal clear lake with a maximum depth of over 200 feet and an average temperature of 38 degrees. The lake, which occupies the bed of an ancestral upper McKenzie River, lies behind a dam formed by lava flows from Sand Mountain cinder cones about 3,000 years ago. Large preserved trees, which have radio-carbon ages of approximately 2,950 years, are submerged in the lake. These trees can be seen today and are preserved from decay because of the cold, mineral-free water and light currents at the depths of the lake. The Clear Lake Resort is operated under a special-use permit and provides semi-modern cabins, rowboat rentals, lunch counter and store. Picnic area provides 8 units.

74.6 2.2 Fish Lake and Campground (U.S.F.S.). The campground offers 8 camp sites.

74.9 0.3 Fish Lake Flow. Lava does not actually extend to the lake shore. The lake basin was formed 3,800 years ago when lava vents to he east blocked Hackleman Creek. this lava flow is seen on the east shore and on both sides of the highway southeast of the lake.

75.2 0.3 Fish Lake Guard Station on the left. Three Sisters can be seen to the southeast.

76.3 1.1 The Lava Lake Lava Flow (second flow at junction) and the Fish Lake Lava Flow (third from junction) meet here. Fish Lake flow from Nash Crater turned here and moved south for 1.5 miles. Mountain peaks visible from this point, from north to south, are Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Sand Mountain Cones, Mount Washington, and the Three Sisters.

76.4 0.1 Junction Highways 126 and 30. Turn left. You have the option of turning right at this point. The McKenzie Pass Loop will provide details of this route. Detailed information from this junction, left, to Sweet Home is included in the Santiam Rivers Loop.

106.6 30.2 Entering Cascadia.

119.5 12.9 Entering Sweet Home.

121.1 1.6 Junction Highways 20 and 228. Turn left for this loop trip. (At this point, however, you have the option of going right. This route will take you into Lebanon).

125.5 4.4 Holley.

125.7 0.2 Calapooia River.

129.0 3.3 Left to Marcola. At this point you could take a 36.3-mile alternate route to Marcola and Springfield. The trip takes about 1 hour. For detailed description see the Alternates Routes.

129.1 0.1 Crawfordsville.

129.6 0.5 Closed covered bridge, left.

130.4 0.8 McKerchner County Park.

135.8 5.4 Entering Brownsville. Population 926. Home of Linn County Pioneer Museum.

140.3 4.5 Junction Interstate 5 and Highway 228. Halsey is 4 miles straight ahead. Take Eugene turnoff.

150.8 10.5 Rest Area. Phone.

167.7 6.9 Coburg Junction. At this point you may turn right, off the freeway, and take an alternate route into Eugene.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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