The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Round a bend to find Mount Bachelor looming larger than life—and
find its image perfectly reflected in a mile-high lake around another
bend—and you'll understand why Scenic America named the Cascade
Lakes Scenic Byway one of the nation's most important byways. The Byway
passes through the heart of central Oregon, with the towering Cascade
Mountains providing a constant backdrop for a recreational paradise that
offers first class fishing, boating, hiking, rock climbing opportunities
and wonderful alpine and Nordic skiing in the winter. The mountains provide
practical as well as scenic pleasures; they block moist air from the Pacific,
giving this region as many as 250 sunny days a year!
You'll pass along the shores of the renowned Deschutes River and a dozen
lakes, as well as many noteworthy geological formations hewn by glacial
and volcanic activity. Several old-time lakeside resorts offer respite
from the road in the form of an ice cream cone or a comfortable room.
Campers will find a bounty of excellent campgrounds.
Begin in Bend
This incredible journey begins in Bend, the hub of Central Oregon's recreational
paradise. The Central Oregon Welcome Center on U.S. Route 97 houses the
Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau and offers an excellent overview
of the many vacation possibilities available. Before heading into the
mountains, wander through downtown and take in Drake Park, where the meandering
Deschutes River reflects snowy Cascade peaks. Follow the signs to Mt.
Bachelor and the Cascade Lakes.
B. Century Drive
From the outskirts of town, Century Drive (Oregon Route 372) climbs steadily
into the Deschutes National Forest. In the days of the horse and buggy,
it was a 100-mile dirt road—hence the name! This route was once
traveled by early explorers such as Kit Carson, John C. Fremont, and Nathaniel
J. Wyeth. Just beyond the forest boundary, Forest Service Road 41 accesses
the Deschutes River, which offers fishing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing,
and camping opportunities. A few miles further west, a vast lava flow
that altered the river's course can be seen from the road.
C. Mt. Bachelor
As you continue west, the horizon is soon dominated by the enormous cone
of Mt. Bachelor, home of the Pacific Northwest's top ski resort. Mt. Bachelor
boasts dependable, dry powder and a 3,300-foot elevation drop; the ski
season typically extends through June. During summer months, the Pine
Marten Express lift spirits sightseers to the 9,065-foot peak. The dramatic
360-degree view sweeps a volcanic mountain skyline, Sparks Lake and the
Three Sisters Peaks and wilderness area. You can see for hundreds of miles—from
Mt. Adams in Washington to Mt. Shasta in California. The landscape around
Bacheloródark lava flows, pale pumice fields, lofty domes and deep chasmsóis
evidence of the fierce volcanic activity that shaped it.
Moviegoers may recognize the view from Dutchman Flat at the base of Mt.
Bachelor. The panorama of Broken Top and the Three Sisters was featured
in "Homeward Bound" and "Rooster Cogburn", among other
films. Soon, you'll reach Todd Lake, the first of a dozen Cascade gems,
book ended by Mt. Bachelor and Broken Top. As the Byway drops down to
a large meadow, you'll reach Sparks Lake, chosen as the site to commemorate
Ray Atkeson, Oregon's photographer laureate. Watch the meadow closely
at dawn and dusk, as this is an excellent spot to see elk and deer.
Next, you'll reach the emerald waters of Devils Lake, a popular picnic
and camping spot that treats visitors to an eerie optical illusion: crystal
clear water and a shallow white pumice bottom make it seem as if boats
on the surface are floating in midair. A few miles south, you'll reach
Elk Lake, which offers a marina and rustic lodge, and a historic guard
station staffed by volunteers providing information and lots of stories.
Boats can be rented by the hour. Just off the Byway and adjoining Elk
Lake is Hosmer Lake, a fly-fishing-only fishery that's prized for its
brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon. Primitive campsites are available
As the Byway descends, you'll reach Lava Lake, home of a quaint resort
with a marina, lodging and camping. Rent a skiff, pack a picnic lunch
and putter about in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor. Nearby Little Lava Lake
is the source of the Deschutes River, which meanders through a lush meadow
along the Byway as you move south toward Cultus Lake and Crane Prairie
Reservoir. Crane Prairie is home of the famous "cranebows,"
oversize rainbow trout that grow quickly in this shallow, food-rich impoundment.
The record rainbow to date weighed over 19 pounds, with abundant fish
in the 4 to 10 pound range. Wildlife enthusiasts will delight in Crane
Prairie's osprey observation point, a short walk from a parking area in
the Crane Prairie Reserve. Summer months are best for viewing adults feeding
F. Still More Lakes
South of Crane Prairie, more lakes await you. A short detour east on
Forest Service Road 42 takes you past Wickiup Reservoir (another angler's
favorite) and Twin Lakes, to U.S. Route 97. The Byway continues south
to Davis Lake, a large, shallow impoundment that was formed by a lava
flow cutting off Odell Creek. In good water years, Davis offers excellent
fly fishing for rainbow trout, with South Sister providing a stunning
backdrop. Abundant waterfowl are also present, along with many campsites.
The Byway ends at Oregon Route 58 near Crescent and Odell lakes, two
popular recreation sites with complete resort facilities.
High Desert Museum: This museum on U.S. Highway 97 in
Bend has excellent displays on the natural and cultural history of the
Lava Lands Visitor Center: Further south on U.S. Highway
97, you can tour Lava Butte, an extinct volcanic cone, and take in interpretive
Newberry Volcanic Monument: Another 20 miles southeast
you'll reach the Newberry Volcanic Monument, which is noteworthy for many
volcanic wonders, including a vast obsidian flow.
In the mid-1960s, astronauts trained along the Cascade Lakes Highway
in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. In 1971, Astronaut
Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission placed an earth rock from a volcanic
dome near Devils Lake on the lunar surface. It's the only earth rock on