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Oregon Scenic Drives: Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

The towering Cascade Mountains provide the backdrop for Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. These mountains also offer fabulous hiking and challenging rock climbing.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway climbs into the Deschutes National Forest, where fishing, hiking, rafting, and other outdoor sports are plentiful. This area is also a winter playground; for example, Mount Bachelor Ski and Summer Resort is filled with snow through June.

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As you drive by many bodies of water along the route, it is easy to see why this route was named after the Cascade Lakes. Some of the lakes that you encounter include Todd Lake, Sparks Lake, Cultus Lake, and Crane Prairie Reservoir.

As you can imagine, this is an angler's paradise. Anglers can spend hours at the banks of these lakes, fishing for Atlantic salmon and other freshwater fish. Waterfowl and many species of plants thrive here as well.

Archaeological Qualities of Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

The history of how this area was formed is preserved at the High Desert Museum, along with displays and artifacts of the area's Native Americans and original cowboys. Also on display are remakes of prehistoric dwellings.

Historical Qualities of Cascade Lakes

Scenic Byway

This same scenic drive was once traveled by early mountain explorers Kit Carson, John C. Fremont, and Nathaniel J. Wyeth. In the days of horse and buggy, this was a well-worn 100-mile dirt road called the Century Drive.

The Lava River Cave, Oregon's longest uncollapsed lava tube, tells the tale of the area's once-active volcanic past. However, it is closed during winter months, and warm clothing is

advised when touring the other times of the year. The Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava Butte also supply good sources of information on volcanic cones and formations.

Natural Qualities of Cascade Lakes

Scenic Byway

The geology of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is especially significant. The volcanic Cascade Mountains (unique to the Pacific Northwest) are part of the Ring of Fire volcanic mountain chain that borders the Pacific Ocean. Nowhere else in the country (and possibly in the world) is there ready access to such a great diversity of volcanic features.

You can see stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, cinder cones, sheets of pumice and ash, sheets of ashflow tuffs, maars, caves, and several kinds of lava flows and domes. Volcanism and glaciation formed more than 150 small and large lakes for which this region is well known.

This area is also featured in geology textbooks and was used as a training ground for the Apollo moon missions in the 1960s. In 1971, astronaut Jim Irwin (aboard Apollo 15) placed a rock from Devil's Lake (a lake along this byway) on the lunar surface -- the only Earth rock on the moon!

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway also traverses through the drier forests that include lodgepole pine and older ponderosa pine. And 262 species of birds and animals reside here, including two threatened species: the bald eagle and the northern spotted owl.

View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.
View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.

Recreational Qualities of Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

You'll find many recreational activities along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Due to elevation differences and compact geography, six months out of the year you can ski in the morning and hike, fish, bicycle, or kayak in the afternoon.

Within the Deschutes National Forest and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, you'll find snowcapped peaks, more than 150 lakes, and a river. With its dependable, dry powder snow and 3,300 foot elevation drop, Mount Bachelor offers the best downhill skiing in the Northwest. The same snow conditions also provide great cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.

Excellent camping, fishing, boating, bicycling, hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, and horseback riding are also available. You can also white-water raft on the Deschutes River.

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

  • Oregon Scenic Drives: Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Oregon. Check out the others.
  • Bend: Read about what to do in cities along the Cascade Lakes 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.

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