Trout Creek Hike

Looking north from the Trout Creek trail 3Apr2017If you walk on the Trout Creek trail at certain times of the year, you’ll probably see golden eagles soaring over the rimrock bordering the Deschutes River. This easy trail is located northwest of Madras, Oregon and the trail head is located in a nice Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground. There is no fee for parking and hiking there.

The trail follows an old railroad track route. As I mentioned in a previous post here, there were two railroad companies competing to work their way south so for a while, there were two tracks. This rails-to-trails conversion serves hikers well. The trail heads west from the campground for 7.6 miles. On a recent hike there we hiked for two miles and then turned around. There’s an outhouse there and a good grass-covered area along the river for a lunch break.

We saw some interesting wildlife on our hike in April. Common mergansers were seen all along the route. The female and males have such different coloring and form you might think they are two distinct species. We saw ospreys on a nest and soaring overhead. Golden eagles and turkey vultures were seen in several places. Double crested cormorants were seen a few times. An unusually silent Townsend’s solitaire songbird did its best to make me think it was something else. See my post here about solitaires. Swallows circled and swooped over our heads. This area does look like it would get hot later in the year so keep a watch out for snakes as temperatures increase.

Lichen covered cliffs Trout Creek trail 3Apr2017There are colorful growths of lichen on the rimrock cliffs that border the riverside trail. At one point I saw a huge “O” created by fluorescent green lichens. Were there some University of Oregon ducks out there influencing Nature?

Wildflowers were just starting to come out on our spring hike. I spotted a single beautiful delicate yellow bell flower along the trail. The mock orange shrubs were just starting to leaf out but later in the season their fragrance must fill the air. I saw the biggest bitterbrush shrub I have ever seen along this trail – about  12 feet tall.

The hike is framed by the cliffs rising above the river far below. You can see basalt and tuff from different geological time periods reflected in these formations.

Rock climbing area Trout Creek 3Apr2017The columnar basalt cliffs make this a popular destination for rock climbers. Climbers can try out over 130 routes there. Some consider this area to offer some of the best desert crack climbing around. For more details on climbing there, click here to read a post by climber Jeff Wenger or here to read a post on summitpost.org. Wenger explains how various groups got together with the BLM to implement a seasonal closure to protect nesting golden eagles – as opposed to a year-round closure. The cliff nesting area is closed to rock climbing temporarily from January 15 – August 15. It may open as early as May 15 but the hiking trail is open year-round.

Round Mesa Trout Creek trail 3Apr2017To get to this trail head you have to go on a somewhat circuitous route so look at directions here under “Getting There.” You will pass through a one-lane tunnel at one point so make sure you have a loud horn. 😉

Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint

Crooked River Railroad Bridge 3Apr2017

Crooked River Railroad Bridge

Driving along U.S. Route 97 north of Redmond, Oregon, a bridge dramatically spanning a deep canyon grabs your attention. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge was built in 1911. It passes over the Crooked River, 320 feet below.

There is a nice rest area here with picnic tables, restrooms, and scenic viewpoints. You can get a bird’s eye views of birds of prey, swallows, and other cliff dwellers from here. We had a bald eagle glide over our heads while a turkey vulture drifted by nearby.

The Crooked River, true to its name, meanders in a twisting course through the canyon below the bridge. You get great views of the lichen covered cliffs from this viewpoint. This area was formed about 350,000 years ago as lava flows from the Newberry Volcano, 40 miles to the south, moved northwards.

This viewpoint is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who first entered central Oregon in 1825 when working as a trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For more about the park, click here.

Crooked River at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Crooked River

If you are a thrill seeker, you can bungee jump from the bridge in the summer. After a pilot program in 2016, the state gave final approval for bungee jumping businesses here.

Note the signs about leaving your dogs in the car. Unfortunately, some have perished when they accidentally ran off the cliffs.

Caution signs at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Caution signs at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint

The Crooked River Railroad Bridge has an interesting history. Two competing railroad companies were building rail lines on both sides of the Deschutes River in an attempt to be the first to reach the timber-rich country near Bend. There were also plans to connect this line to railroad lines from other parts of the state.

Jim Hill, owner of The Oregon Trunk Railway (a subsidiary of Great Northern Railway), worked on the west side of the river and Edward H. Harriman, owner of the Union Pacific Railway and other railroads, worked on the east side. Workers in the two competing companies got in fights and raided each other’s camps stealing food, alcohol, and supplies. When they reached Crooked River there was only one area where the geography allowed for bridge construction.

Since Jim Hill had bought that property two years before, Harriman’s company was forced to negotiate with him. Harriman had passed away in September of 1909. The terms of the settlement allowed other railroad companies to use the rail lines from the Columbia River to Bend. The two lines were eventually merged into one with the best grades adopted for use and the rest abandoned.

View from the Crooked River High Bridge looking west at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

View from the Crooked River High Bridge looking west

Construction of the bridge, designed by architect Ralph Modjeski, started on May 18, 1911 and it was completed on September 17 of that year. The fast pace was due to a rush to complete the line to Bend, 25.5 miles to the south. Jim Hill drove the golden spike in Bend on October 5, 1911.

Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge at Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 3Apr2017

Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge

If you visit the viewpoint, you will see three bridges. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge is located farthest west. The Crooked River High Bridge was completed in 1926 and it served as the main north-south highway until 2000. In 2000, the higher-capacity Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge replaced that bridge. Formerly known as the Crooked River Bridge, its name was changed in 2003 to honor local World War II fighter pilot, Rex T. Barber. On one of his missions Lt. Barber, in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, shot down a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville Island, northeast of Australia. Admiral Yamamoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a lot of history, and beauty, associated with the Crooked River bridges.