Lower Crooked River Back Country Byway - Oregon Scenic Drives


Oregon BLM's Back Country Byways
Interested in exploring Oregon's back country, those places often overlooked by highway motorists on their way to well-known attractions?

For those with the time and a desire to turn off the beaten track onto a country road, Oregon BLM's Back Country Byways provide access to a diversity of landscapes and attractions just waiting to be rediscovered. From forests to deserts, from mountains to canyons, the willing explorer can find some of Oregon's spectacular but lesser-known attractions.

Byways provide visitors the opportunity to view a variety of wildlife in its native habitat, explore remote and often historic areas, watch Native Americans dip net salmon, or photograph high desert plateaus and snow-capped mountains. The opportunities for outdoor adventure and enjoyment are unlimited.

The idea for byways came from a presidential study on recreation that said that 43 percent of all Americans consider driving for pleasure the most popular form of recreation in the country. BLM byways program meets this demand for pleasure driving, enhances recreation experiences, and better informs visitors about the values of public lands.

But most of all, BLM byways are a means to let travelers get away from it all and see some of the little-known areas that make Oregon unique and special.

The Lower Crooked River National Back Country Byway offers excellent opportunities to view scenery, watch wildlife, fish, camp and learn about riparian ecosystems.

The byway enters public land at about milepost 12 and winds its way through the steep-walled canyon. The majestic, reddish brown basalt walls have given rise to the name "Pallisades" for this portion of the byway. This segment of the Crooked River was included in the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1988. In addition to the Chimney Rock Recreation Site near milepost 17, camping, fishing for native rainbow trout and picnicking opportunities are available all along this segment. Visitors may see deer, coyotes and raptors along the river. Bald eagles winter in the area and black bear have been seen on occasion.

The Arthur R. Bowman dam is encountered at about milepost 20. Built in 1962 with a height of 245 feet, this earthen dam created Prineville Reservoir, a major irrigation storage facility for the area.

After the road crosses Bear Creek, different techniques of riparian management can be observed.

After a climb out of the Bear Creek drainage, the byway enters Oregon's High Desert, characterized by a vast expanse of sagebrush. Here one can see antelope, mule deer, sagegrouse and coyotes.

The Lower Crooked River byway covers the entire Oregon State Route 27, a 43-mile road between Prineville, in the north, and State Highway 20, in the south. The byway is a paved, two-lane road for about 21 miles from Prineville.

The remaining segment is an all-weather gravel road. Access to the byway is either from Prineville or the junction with Highway 20, approximately 36 miles east of Bend.

If you are not camping, lodging is available in Prineville and Bend. Gas is available in Prineville, Bend or Brothers, 7 miles east of the Highway 20 junction.

Although the gravel portion of the byway often becomes washboardy, the byway is easily passable by any normal passenger vehicle. One must exercise driving caution during the spring and summer months due to the influx of recreationists and be especially careful on the sharp curves of the gravel portion due to the narrow road and limited view of the road ahead. Range livestock may also be on the gravel portion at times.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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