Cascade Lakes Highway
Selected Points of Interest
- Cinnabar Mine – 3 miles south of Madras on Hwy. 26 the framed entrance can be seen on the side of the hill to the east of the highway. Cinnabar is a naturally occurring combination of mercury and sulfur. The mercury can economically be extracted from this mineral.
- Crooked River National Grasslands – The rolling grassland is part of our National Forest system and is managed to provide habitat for antelope, deer, and upland game. The grassland was tilled between 1880 and 1930 after it was reported that the land was suitable for dry farming. By 1930, nearly 700 homesteaders had relinquished their claims. The government repurchased the sub-marginal, drought-stricken homestead lands. In an effort to rehabilitate the area, crested wheat was planted during the 1950s. Today, over 375 animal species are found in the grassland. Rimrock Springs Wildlife Management Area viewpoint and trail showcase this habitat. The 1.5-mile trail loops around the hilltop for panoramic view of the Cascade range.
- Grizzly Mountain Pass – 10 miles from Prineville. The stage coach road from Prineville to The Dalles was on the north side of this mountain. At this point, arid grasslands are left behind and the irrigated fields become visible.
- City of Prineville Railway Overpass – 4 miles. Prineville faced economic disaster in 1911. Both Union Pacific and Oregon Trunk RR decided to take their lines through Bend. The citizens voted 358 -1 to fund a spur line to join the other RR. This is the only municipally owned railroad in the U.S.
- City of Prineville – Prineville was the first town in Central Oregon. Settled in 1868 and once the center of a much larger Crook County, it remains the only incorporated city in Crook County. The Chamber of Commerce office is on Fairview Ave., two blocks past the historic courthouse. Free tours of the courthouse are available in the summer.
- Wildland Fire Fighters Memorial – The Prineville Hotshots are one of the premier firefighting units who travel throughout the U.S. to fight forest fires. Tragically, a number of the Hotshots died in the Colorado Storm King Fire. A memorial to them can be found in Ochoco Creek Park on Elm Street, north of 4th Street.
- Viewpoint – Detour 1 mile west on Hwy. 126 toward Redmond. Provides a great view of Prineville and the surrounding area. Backtrack to tour route. At the bottom of the hill, turn onto O’Neil Highway which follows along the Crooked River.
- Steel Bridge – 3 miles to right on Elliott Lane. Mentioned in Mrs. McCall’s book, “Ranch Under the Rimrock,” this bridge was a major step in tying the ranches together along the lower Crooked River in Prineville. During the range wars between the sheep herders and cattlemen, more than one person was hung from the bridge.
- McCall Ranch – 11 miles. Home of the late Governor Tom McCall, this large house can be seen across the valley from the highway and is indeed “under the rimrock”. Tom McCall personified the sweeping environmental movement of the 60s and 70s.
- Smith Rock State Park– 18 miles. Called “America’s Euro-Crag” because of its similarity to European geography. These rocks have hosted climbers since the 1940s. There are over 600 routes, three of which receive the highest difficulty rating. The visitor to this park can enjoy the 7 miles of hiking trail, fish the Crooked River or use the picnic area to watch the climbers. There is a short but steep climb that will allow viewing of six mountains to the west. Detailed driving directions from Prineville:
- Take OR 126 West 0.2 mi
- Turn right on O’Neil Hwy 12.6 mi
- Bear right on Unnamed St 0.1 mi
- Turn right on Lone Pine Rd 1.2 mi
- Turn left on Elkins Rd/Market Rd 0.6 mi
- Turn right on Lambert Rd 0.7 mi
- Continue on Lambert/Wilcox 1.5 mi
Additional Points of Interest
- Ochoco Reservoir and Ochoco Lake Campground – 6 miles east on Hwy. 26. Impounded by 125-foot high Ochoco Dam. It holds 47,000 acre feet (1 acre foot=325,900 gallons) primarily constructed for irrigation and flood control. It is a favorite recreation area with year-round fishing and boating. Launch ramp and campsites are available.
- Brennen Palisades – 14.4 miles north. These geological formations are worth the trip. (Not suitable for long vehicles or trailers.) Mill Creek becomes USFS #33.
- Stein’s Pillar – 17.4 miles. This 350 ft x 1200 ft monolith is the core of an ancient volcano. View from the road or take the hiking trail. (Pronounced Steens.)
- Wildcat Campground – 19.9 miles. Fee camping. The south entrance to the Mill Creek Wilderness area is located here.
- Hash Rock Viewpoint, Green Mt. Trail-24.2 miles. Hash Rock marks the divide between Mill Creek and McKay (pronounced Muh-Ki) Creek drainages. Located at 2.5 miles on the way down McKay Creek is the A-Y Springs and the site of the old portable A-Y saw mill. USFS #27 becomes McKay. The Hash Rock area was the site of a recent wildfire.
- Leaving the Ochoco National Forest – 31.1 miles. Private lands show clear-cut juniper areas. Fire once naturally thinned these trees. Ranchers now battle for rangeland improvement and water resources. The grass growing under these trees is bitter tasting and rejected by livestock. Returning to town, watch for ranches with special breeds of horses, buffalo, llama, sheep and wildlife like antelope, elk, and deer. The farmers cultivate hay for livestock. Just before heading into town is the cemetery. Some of the headstones are from the early pioneer days.
- Crooked River – South on Highway 27. This scenic byway provides access to 17 miles of river for fishing, camping, rafting, and biking.
- Bowman Dam – 20 miles. Rolled earth and rock-filled dam is 800 feet long at the crest, 35 feet wide at the tip, and 1,100 feet wide at the base. Standing 245 feet high, this dam impounds the Prineville Reservoir. The reservoir holds 153,000 acre feet, covers 310 acres, and is 12 miles long. At its widest it is 1 mile across. The dam was completed in 1961. Drive across the dam for the boat launch facility.
- Prineville Reservoir – 17 miles from Prineville. The reservoir was built for irrigation and flood control. The lake has become one of the popular boating and fishing areas in Central Oregon. It is famous for its rainbow trout and small mouth bass. To visit the State Parks (Prineville Reservoir and Jasper Point): take Hwy. 26 East, turn right on Combs Flat Rd., turn right on Juniper Canyon Rd. This road becomes SE Parkland Drive. Cabins, tent sites, RV hookups, and boat slips are available.