Outback Scenic Byway
171 miles / 273.6 km
Time to Allow: Expect 3 to 4 hours to experience all this
Byway has to offer.
Fees: There are no fees along the Byway proper.
Take US Highway 97 south from Bend, Oregon. Just past La Pine is
a junction with Oregon Highway 31 and the north end of the Byway.
Travel south on Highway 31 toward Silver Lake and Lakeview. The
Byway turns onto US 395 just north of Lakeview and continues south
to the Oregon/California border.
Learn for yourself why outback means "isolated rural country," when you
drive through this rugged and remote area of Oregon. Let this Byway take
you through Oregon's outback, where the agricultural and timber industries
are tied to life, heritage, and values; where the landscape ranges from
lush green forests to arid desert; and where the people that live here
seek independence but know each other by first names. While you're here,
you'll also notice that community is paramount to the people who call
this area home.
Rim is the largest geological fault in North America. Abert Rim towers
2,500 feet above the valley floor in the Great Basin country of Eastern
Oregon's high desert. Abert Lake, one of the world's few remaining inland
seas, is at the northernmost base of the rim.
- About 27 miles east of U.S. Route 97, the forest abruptly gives way
to vast sagebrush plains reminiscent of the Australian Outback. Like Australia's
Ayer Rock, Oregon's Outback also has a mysterious rock formation that
emerges from out of nowhere.
is the remains of a volcano that looks like a giant citadel rising 325
feet above the plain. Fort Rock was formed by super heated basalt magma
roaring up through ground water as a boiling mud volcano, then cooling.
It was formed some 5 to 6 million years ago. The ring of material left
behind, called a maar, is the remains of this explosive event.
Homestead Village features a living history museum in the summer. The
museum is a showcase of what life was like for early settlers. Also found
here are stories of courageous men and women who fought the cruel natural
elements such as: drought, unseasonable frost and jackrabbits.
Lake - Ten thousand years ago, flamingoes, camels, mammoths, and other
post-Ice Age animals roamed the shores of a huge lake that covered the
entire Fort Rock/Christmas Valley basin.
is a dry 6,550-acre area that is a remnant of the much larger Pleistocene
lake. Prehistoric fossils can be viewed on the surrounding. The fossils
are considered rare because they are from small mammals not normally found
in such volume and variety. The fossils are from 10,000 to 2 million years
old. The bones, teeth and shells present are from mammoths, sloths, camels,
flamingos, pelicans, salmon, snails, small birds and even chipmunks.
Lake is recognized as one of the most significant sites in North America
for Pleistocene age fossils. Many ancient animals were first discovered
and named from specimens collected at Fossil Lake in the early 1900s.
Although the area is fenced off and closed to OHV's, you are welcome to
walk through the area and observe fossils. Please remember that federal
law prohibits the collection of vertebrate fossils without a permit.
© National Scenic Byways / U.S. Department of Transportation