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Oregon Scenic Drive: Outback Scenic Byway

        Adventure | West

This area of Oregon is rugged and remote; in fact, outback means "isolated rural country." The Outback Scenic Byway takes you through Oregon's outback, where the agricultural and timber industries employ many of the residents, where the landscape ranges from lush green forests to arid desert, and where the people who live here seek independence yet know each other by their first names.

Archaeological Qualities of the Outback Scenic Byway

The Outback Scenic Byway transects the Fort Rock Cave National Register Site, the Picture Rock Pass National Register Site, and the Lake Abert National Register District. All these sites contain significant historic and prehistoric cultural values. The districts have one of the highest cultural site densities in the Great Basin Region, and several archaeological papers and reports of regional and national significance have been published regarding the rock art found here.

Cultural Qualities of the Outback Scenic Byway

Some of the Outback Scenic Byway's cultural flavor can be seen in the buildings along the byway, which reflect the influence of the Old West.

View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Oregon's Outback Scenic Byway.
View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Oregon's Outback Scenic Byway.

Recreational Qualities of the Outback Scenic Byway

The thermal updrafts that are created from the warming of the valley and the mountains make the Lakeview area ideal for hang gliding. In fact, Lakeview has been named the hang gliding capital of the West by many hang gliding and sports magazines.

An annual hang gliding festival around the Fourth of July attracts hundreds of pilots, making it one of the unique recreational events in Oregon. The U.S. Hang Gliding Association has held two national championships in the Lakeview area. Pilots from around the world come to catch the thermals.

The Outback Scenic Byway brings visitors in close proximity to six national designations, including the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness, the Christmas Valley National Back Country Byway, the Lake Abert and the Warner Wetlands Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, and the Lakeview to Steens Back Country Byway.

Natural Qualities of the Outback Scenic Byway

Among the many natural attributes, the Fort Rock State Natural Area is listed as a National Natural Landmark. Fort Rock is a volcanic maar formation that homesteading families of long ago appropriately named for its four-sided towering walls. This ideal natural fort is colored orange-brown.

Abert Rim, another natural attraction, is one of the nation's longest and most continuous fault escarpments. This rim rises more than 2,000 feet above the highway.

The Summer Lake State Wildlife Area is 18,000 acresin size and home to more than 250 species of birds. The marshlike area, located in the high desert, is strategically important for habitat and nesting.

Regionally, it is one of the most important stops for migrating birds that use the Pacific Flyway. Many sensitive, threatened, or endangered species -- such as bald eagles, American peregrine falcons, western snowy plovers, greater sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans -- can be seen using this habitat. More than 15,000 birdwatchers flock here annually.

Find more useful information related to Oregon's Outback Scenic Byway:

  • Oregon Scenic Drives: Outback Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Oregon. Check out the others.
  • Lakeview, Paisley, La Pine: Read about what to do in cities along Outback Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Oregon? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.