15 miles of 242 closes due to fire
Last updated 8/22/2023 at 9:50am
In an abundance of caution, ODOT announced Friday that it was closing 15 miles of the 82-mile McKenzie-Santiam Scenic Byway (Highway 242) between mileposts 61 and 76 due to activity from the Lookout Fire, reported on August 5, which so far has consumed over 11,000 acres.
The closure is 14 miles west of Sisters. The popular Dee Wright Observatory at mile post 77.5 remains open. ODOT’s decision was not based on the threat of actual fire reaching the iconic highway. Rather it was the concern that smoke would affect visibility on the winding road and lead to accidents.
Traffic on 242 has been diminished, with conditions caused by five fires burning in the Willamette National Forest. The always popular motorcycle and bicycle route has seen a noticeable drop in traffic.
Jodie Barram, public information officer for Northwest Incident Management Team 6, told media the highway closure is in place until further notice and in coordination with the Lane and Linn county sheriff’s offices, the Willamette National Forest, and officials with the incident management team and Oregon State Fire Marshal Team.
“The fire is not that close,” Barram said. “With the evacuation level changes around popular recreation destinations yesterday and today, a Red Flag Warning for the area from 11 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Sunday, and an active wildfire creating significant smoke impacts, you can understand the hazards that it creates for such a winding and (usually) scenic highway.”
Drivers should check with tripcheck.com for updated information before using the road.
In addition, a Forest Service emergency closure order issued for the Lookout Fire area on the Willamette National Forest has been expanded to include Blue Pool, Sahalie Falls, and other popular recreation areas. The closure order, which is for public and firefighter safety, will be in effect until September 18, 2023, unless rescinded or modified sooner. This order supersedes and rescinds previous orders.
Closed trails and trailheads now include: Blue Pool/Tamolitch Falls, the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail and trailheads, and the Waterfalls Loop Trail.