Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway Mileage Guide

How to Use This Guide

At the top of each paragraph is the distance from Baker City. The mileage and descriptions are based on driving around the route from Baker City towards Anthony Lakes, going first by Phillips Lake.

Post Office Square, Baker City (Milepost 0.0)
Nearly a century and a half ago, wagon trains bringing pioneers over the Oregon Trail rolled through this valley on their way to greener futures. Some stopped here in what was originally called Lone Tree Valley after a solitary pine that grew near the present day airport. Baker City was named for Edward D. Baker, Oregon's first senator and the only congressman to be killed in the Civil War.

The area flourished as an agricultural center, supplying nearby gold boom towns with the staples of life. In the spring of 1868 a few citizens decided that the town of Auburn was too lawless to be suitable as seat of the county government. Early one morning they drove into Auburn with a wagon, took all the county records, and announced as they left that Baker City was the new county seat. Later that year, a formal state election officially voted the county seat to Baker City.

The Union Pacific Railroad route to Portland was put through Baker City in 1884, providing coast-to-coast service. The beginning of the boom for Baker City started in 1889, when David Eccles founded his Oregon Lumber Company. Eccles proposed the narrow-gauge Sumpter Valley Railroad in 1890 to haul ponderosa pine logs to his mill from the forest. When you leave Baker City on State Highway 7 from U.S. Highway 30 at post Office Square, you are following the route of the Stump Dodger, the Sumpter Valley Railroad.

Auburn Road (Milepost 7.2)
Approximately four miles off the byway and up this graveled road is the site of the town of Auburn. Once a booming mining camp and the original seat of Baker County, all that remains now are a few tombstones. A rough frontier town where laws were drawn up and nailed to trees, Auburn leaves behind a trail of legends such as the elusive Blue Bucket Mine and the intriguing tale of Spanish Tom who murdered his two gambling companions and then was killed by a group of local vigilantes.

Salisbury Junction (Milepost 8.9)
On your left is the Dooley Mountain State Historic Highway. The road was first proposed by B. F. Koontz,a pioneer who lived on the south side of the mile-high mountain in the mid-1800's. He later died of exposure after snowshoeing from the town of Auburn to his home in the middle of winter. The road was finally built by a consortium of partners and was kown as the Boyd Toll Road after the principal investor. Boyd's interest was purchased by John Dooley in 1871, and the name of the road was changed to Dooley Road. In 1889, it was sold to the county and became a public road.

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Boundary (Milepost 13.4)
The Baker City Forest Reserve was established in 1904, then combined with the Blue Mountain Reserve to become the Whitman National Forest in 1908. Many subsequent boundary changes were finalized in 1954 when the Wallowa and Whitman Forests were combined into one National Forest, now the largest National Forest in the northwest, with 2.3 million acres. This area of public land is administered by the Forest Service under the United States Department of Agriculture.

Red Bridge Crossing (Milepost 14.3)
A bridge-crossing for the Sumpter Valley Railroad (SVRR) once stood in this gorge. Painted a bright boxcar red, it was called the Red Bridge and was frequently photographed. Though later rebuilt as a trestle bridge, it retained its name. This portion of the scenic byway closely follows the alignment of the SVRR which ran between Baker City and Prairie City carrying lumber, freight, and passengers. The narrow guage line crossed three mountain ranges with dramatically steep grades and impressively abrupt curves.

Powder River Recreation Area (Milepost 15.4)
The Powder River Recreation Area is made up of three sites situated along a mile stretch of the Powder River below Mason Dam. Habitat for resident and hatchery trout has been enhanced with constructed pools and weirs. As a result, excellent trout fishing is available throughout.

Powder River Interpretive Site (Milepost 15.3)
At this interpretive site learn more about the fish and wildlife inhabitants of the Powder River area. The 1/2 -mile long paved accessible Powder River fishing trail begins here. There is also an accessible fishing site and a trailhead for hikers.
Two more sites are accessed by taking the side road at milepost 15.4. The Powder River Trailhead is within 1/4 of a mile, offering accessible toilets, an accessible fishing platform, and access to the Powder River fishing trail. Further down this road another 1/2 mile is a shaded picnic area accessed by a footbridge.

Mason Dam Overlook (Milepost 16.4)
The Mason dam boat launch is reached by taking this side road. A small parking area near the top provides access to a short 1/4 mile trail leading to an overlook of the dam. Visitors will find information on local vegetation and on the Bureau of Reclamation dam project along the trail. The body of water was named after local cattleman Fred Phillips who was instrumental in getting the project completed.

Union Creek Campground (Milepost 18.2)
No matter what your favorite outdoor activity is, from fishing to water skiing to snoozing under the pines, you can pursue it at this full-service campground. With 58 overnight camping units, 80 picnic areas, a fish cleaning station, boat ramp, swimming area, and hiking trails, you can enjoy nature under the Ponderosa pines. The beautiful campground is located on the edge of serene Phillips Lake, which is actually an irrigation reservoir. The Union Creek Campground is currently a fee site operated by concessionaire contract with the Forest Service.

Mowich Loop Picnic Area (Milepost 20.1)
At this picnic site, you are bound to meet some of the forest's inhabitants. Several habitat types meet in this area creating a site that attracts abundant and diverse wildlife. Water fowl, shore birds, song birds, raptors, mule and white-tail deer, squirrels, coyotes, weasels, and chipmunks are just a few of the wildlife that call this site their home. The artificial snags you see along the edges of the lake have had ospreys nesting in them since they were erected in 1977 and occasionally bald eagles perch on them. There are two interpretive signs to help you identify the wildlife.

Tailings Overlook (Milepost 20.8)
From this vantage point you can clearly see the tailings left from repeated dredgings of the valley floor. An interpretive sign explains how gold was sifted out of the river deposits in this area by large boats called dredges which contained specialized mining equipment. With the large dredges now silent and abandoned, the tailings have become revegetated.

Sumpter Valley Railroad (Milepost 22.9)
Travelling 1/4 mile south of the highway will take you back 100 years, to the depot of the Stump Dodger itself! Restoration on a section of the original run takes passengers on an excursion through the valley tailings to the very edge of the town of Sumpter, once known as the Queen City. The narrow gauge train runs four times daily on weekends and holidays throughout the summer months.

Sumpter Junction (Milepost 27.9)
The scenic byway route leaves State Highway 7 at this junction, and continues north on State Hwy 410

Sumpter Dredge (Milepost 27.9)
The river valleys were difficult to work over for gold by the more primitive mining methods. Miners in New Zealand then developed dredges to dig out and process the gold-bearing gravel. Two "Yuba" type dredges from California were launched into Sumpter Valley after 1913. The dredges operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with only two holidays a year. This dredge recovered enough gold to average $20,000 a month profit. The last dredge to work the main part of the valley spends its final days here. The only fatality in all the dredging operations happened with the winch in this boat when it caught Chris Rowe and instantly killed him. The dredge was later reported to have a ghost whose footsteps were heard coming up the steps to the winch room at night after the power was turned off.

The Sumpter Valley Dredge State Historic Area is now operated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Sumpter (Milepost 28.0)
In 1862, five confederate soldiers from the Civil War battlefields set up camp here at the confluence of Cracker and McCully Fork Creeks. Originally named Fort Sumpter, the town slowly grew as mining, lumber productions, and ranching activities became established. The Whitman National Forest established its headquarters here and the town eventually had 15 saloons, three newspapers, an opera house, and a planked main street that kept residents out of the mud. In 1917, a fire starting in the kitchen of the Capital Hotel quickly grew and swept through town, consuming buildings and boardwalks alike. The town's water supply failed 30 minutes after the start of the fire, and dynamite was finally used to stop the flames. The fire, combined with the shutdown of the gold mines, ended the boom in Sumpter which now has a population of about 130 people.

Town of Bourne (Milepost 28.7)
A seven-mile side trip up Cracker Creek on a gravel road takes you back to the glory days of gold and the townsite of Bourne. Bourne was once the center of the hard-rock mining area yet was off limits to the Chinese miners in the lower vallley. The Chinese were despised by the local miners because of their hard-working natures and unfamiliar customs.

View of the Elkhorn Mountains (Milepost 33.0)
The fascinating geology of the Elkhorn Mountains is a result of a triple-decker conglomeration of rock formations from three entirely different sources and time periods. Ancient seas at one time covered this area depositing material which eventually made sedimentary rocks - this is one of the few areas of the state where this rock is visible. It was later intruded and displaced by molten rock which solidified into granite; much later flows of volcanic basalt surround and covered parts of the area. Finally sculpted by glaciers, the Elkhorns tell an intricate tale in their silent rock formations.

Blue Springs Summit and Snowpark (Milepost 35.0)
At 5,864 feet above sea level, Blue Springs Summit is on the divide between Baker and Grant Counties. This plowed parking area provides access to approximately 150 miles of groomed snowmobile trails on Baker and Unity Ranger Districts. Areas like this are often the sites of rousing winter activities. This is also the northern terminus for a 60-mile long OHV trail that ends at Elk Creek Campground on the Unity Ranger District. The campground is eight miles west of Unity.

Gold Center (Milepost 36.6)
Over a hundred years ago, this site was a stop for the horse-drawn stage coach line which carried freight and passengers between Sumpter and The Dalles on the Columbia River. Above the road, a small settlement called Gold Center acted as a supply depot for local mining activities. The forest around this area was burned off by the miners to make gold prospecting easier.

Forest Practices Interpretive Site (Milepost 38)
The overlook displays a synopsis of the working lodgepole pine forest in the Elkhorn Mountains. An interpretive sign depicts forest practices from the 1970's to the present.

Boundary Guard Station (Milepost 41.1)
One of many crew quarters scattered over the remote areas of the National Forests, this Guard Station was built in the depression years by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews. The building has many unique and laborious details crafted with care by now unknown artisans. These buildings were originally occupied in the summer seasons by field crews who worked in the woods marking timber to be cut, fighting fires, or surveying for roads. This building is no longer used by Forest Service crews.

Townsite of Granite (Milepost 44.0)
Still with the facade of a roisterous frontier town, Granite is a bit of living history. You might want to take a side trip through the streets of the town and read the names and histories of the remaining buildings. Over the years, Granite has been the home of such characters as pioneer Skedaddle Smith and One-eyed Dick. Then there was '49 Jimmie whose only companion was a rooster with whom he shared all his meals. The rooster has been remembered as often perching on the edge of the bean pot helping himself to some grub.
The Fremont Powerhouse is just five miles south of Granite on Forest Road 10. The powerhouse provided electricity for mining operations in the area for almost 60 years, operating on water piped from Olive Lake. The road to the powerhouse is unpaved.

Ah Hee Diggings - Chinese Walls (Milepost 45.5)
After the easier gold had been placered out of these streambeds, the claims were leased to Chinese laborers who effeciently reworked them. As the men made their way upstream, they set aside the larger boulders and formed "walls" which paralled the streams. This is the clue by which you can differentiate the areas worked by hand from those worked by dredges since the boom from the dredges left the tailings in lines perpendicular to the streambeds.
The site is now commemorated as the Ah Hee Diggings Interpretive Site.

The Cougar- Independence Mine (Milepost 47.0)
Almost a million dollars worth of gold and silver came out of the hard rock mine you see across the draw. It played out at the start of World War II. All mines in this area are located on mining claims or on private ground. Please do not trespass.

North Fork John Day Wild and Scenic River Corridor (Milepost 52.5)
This segment of the North Fork John Day River was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in 1988. For the next several miles you will be following this special stretch of river, recognized for outstanding fisheries, water quality, scenery, recreation, wildlife, and historical values. The river supports several species of fish of special interest: the threatened bull trout, steelhead trout, rainbow trout, and the last stable wild run of chinook salmon in the John Day River Basin. Special fishing restrictions apply. Consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations for more information.

North Fork John Day Campground (Milepost 52.5)
The Elkhorn Scenic Byway continues on Forest Road 73 which takes a turn to the east (right) at the North Fork of the John Day Campground. At this point, the Elkhorn Scenic Byway meets with the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway of the Umatilla National Forest which continues to the northwest and passes through the towns of Ukiah, Heppner, and Ione. The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway begins at the junction of I-84 and State Highway 74 and is an alternative route you may wish to take. A three-panel kiosk contains a map showing both Byways. Further information on the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway may be obtained from: Umatilla National Forest, 2517 SW Hailey, Pendleton, OR 97801, or by calling 541-278-3722.

North Fork John Day Wilderness (Milepost 54)
The North Fork John Day Wilderness-Baldy Unit encompasses much of the mountainous terrain that can be seen to the south and east. This wilderness is approximately 13,000 acres in size, and was designated in 1984. Several trailheads with trails leading into the Wilderness are located along this highway. Visitors will notice the effects of several recent fires in the area. Ths Sloans Ridge wildfire is most visible; it burned through the area in 1996.

Elkhorn Summit and Anthony Lakes Overlook (Milepost 66.9)
At 7,392 feet, you are at the highest point on the Scenic Byway. The jagged peaks form the backdrop for the Anthony Lakes Recreation Area.

Grand Ronde Lake Campground (Milepost 68)
Follow the signs directing visitors down to the campground. There's a small picnic area, boat launch, and eight campsites for tents and small trailers. This area is a fee site.

Anthony Lakes Recreation Area (Milepost 71)
The Anthony Lakes Recreation Area encompasses Mud Lake Campground (six campsites), Anthony Lakes Day Use Area, and Anthony Lakes Campground. Anthony Lakes Campground has 37 campsites suitable for tents, pickup campers, and small trailers/RV's. The day use area has picnicking, boat launching, and access to several trails. The Hoffer Lakes interpretive trail begins on the south side of the lake, leading one mile up to Hoffer Lakes. This area is a day and overnight fee site.

Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort and Ski Area (Milepost 71.3)
The opening of this ski area in 1933 marked it as one of the first in the country. Rebuilding the access road in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and installing one of the first rope ski tows in the country was made possible through the efforts of the Baker Evergreen Ski Club. The local ski patrol also helped organize the National Ski Patrol later on. The Anthony Lakes Ski Area is well-known in Oregon for its fine, powder snow. At 7100 feet, it claims the highest base elevation of any ski area in Oregon.

Baker Valley Overlook (Milepost 76)
Stop here for a breathtaking view of Baker Valley, read about the valley below and admire the peaks of the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness in the distance.

City of Haines
Stop awhile in the biggest little town in Oregon and enjoy true Americana. Along with a city park, Haines offers the Eastern Oregon Museum on Third Street with an extensive collection of pioneer antiques. On the route, stop to see the three-paneled kiosk that tells the history of Haines.

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