This observatory of the past is on McKenzie Pass near Sisters, Oregon. Dee Wright Observatory was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to showcase the human and geological history of this location. The round tower sits atop a small hill.
Here’s what it looks like when you approach it from the west. It’s one of the odder roadside attractions in Oregon but one that should not be missed.
The Observatory is constructed of local lava rock. The triangular-shaped rail supports look like rock cairns.
But what can you observe from here? You get excellent views of some of our local volcanoes, including North and Middle Sister, pictured below.
You’ll see panoramic views of lava beds bordered by volcanic mountains. On the left you can see the top of Mt Washington. Mt Jefferson is in the middle of the picture, shrouded by clouds. On the right you get a partial view of Black Butte.
Here’s a closer view. See Mt Jefferson hiding under the clouds?
An observatory of the past – Geology
This sign highlights part of the geological history. The lava flows that covered this landscape are young, in geological terms. If you have time, walk the 0.50 mile interpretive trail at the site.
From the inside of the structure, you can peek out of square and rectangular windows to see the peaks. Labels are below each window.
On top of the building you’ll find a peak finder.
Here’s a closer view.
Old Wagon Road
This area served as a route for wagons to get across the Cascade Mountains in the late 1800s. It must have been an incredibly rough ride.
If you visit this area…
- Consider traveling the 82-mile loop McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. We drove it in September while searching for fall foliage.
- Note the road to the observatory closes during late fall and opens again in the spring because of high snowfall.
- The winding, narrow McKenzie Pass Highway does not allow vehicles over 35 feet in length.
- Watch for bicyclist traveling along the 38-mile long McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway.
For a little more about this observatory of the past, see my previous post – Dee Wright Observatory.