News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Three Creeks Road opening pushed back

If all goes to plan, Forest Road 16, which has been closed above Upper Three Creeks Sno-Park for refurbishing, will reopen July 28 - to the relief of hundreds of recreation users. The rescheduled opening is two weeks later than planned due to this year's deep snow and the degree of degradation discovered as work began.

Work on the rutted and deep-pocked road is long overdue users say, as they bumped and gritted their way to popular Three Creek Lake and the Tam McArthur Rim Trail. The road serves favorite destinations for horse camping and backcountry trekking.

The road was never designed for the number of vehicles that now regularly use it. Nor was it built to handle the speeds at which anglers, hikers, and campers drive to get to the pristine settings on either side of the road.

It is not, as some thought, an extension of the paved road covering the old dirt road with asphalt. Instead it's a Herculean project to grade and compact the road surface for a smoother ride.

Equally important is to reduce dirt runoff into streams from the rutted road. Over time the road has sunk in the center, forming a natural culvert washing rain and melting snow that further exacerbates road deterioration. Four new drain pipes have been located under the road to prevent stream sediment. An existing duo pipe drain was repaired.

Painstakingly back and forth up to a dozen passes, a massive grader sculpts the road bed, changing its contour from concave to convex, enabling water to flow evenly and slowly to the side.

The grader was preceded by a water tender laying down a spray of moisture to aid in the sculpting artistry. Then came the vibrating roller compacting the dirt/rock mixture, pushing it downward to form a hardened surface.

Unearthed rocks too large to be compacted were scooped away by yet another piece of equipment owned by the Forest Service, whose personnel performed the work, rather than outside contractors.

Once graded the road is being topped off with three-quarter-minus gravel quarried off Highway 242 just west of Sisters. Five thousand cubic yards, 7,000 tons, of the rock. That's roughly 400 truckloads rolling through Sisters on Hood Avenue and out Pine Street as it changes to Three Creeks Road, officially FS 16.

Visitors with reservations for Driftwood Campground, Three Creek Lake Campground, and Three Creek Meadow Campground and Horse Camp between July 21 and July 27 will have reservations cancelled, and will receive an immediate refund.

Central Cascades Wilderness Overnight Permits for Park Meadow and Tam McArthur are cancelled though July 28.

The road remains closed at the gate. Some hikers and cyclists have worked their way around the gate thinking they can hoof it or pedal their way to the lake, only to encounter unpassable roads and equipment that poses a danger to those violating the closure.


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