Wednesday, October 15, was a day of celebration for Northeast Oregon. Officials gathered at Lake Fork Campground beside the FS Road 39 for a ribbon cutting and ceremonial opening of the 13-mile section of road that has been under construction for over two years. The new smooth, black pavement was the star of the day as participants recalled dodging potholes and avoiding cracks and washouts before the project began in 2013. A detour has skirted traffic round the construction at times and delays with flaggers and one-way traffic allowed vehicles to navigate through the project the rest of the construction phase. The highway was reopened about a month ago. FS 39 connects OR Hwy 82 (Wallowa County) with OR Hwy 86 (Baker County), completing the byway loop that encircles the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Representatives from the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, Federal Highways Administration, Senator Ron Wyden’s office, Tidewater Construction, Oregon Department of Transportation, Baker, Union and Wallowa County governments, the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association and the Baker County Chamber of Commerce were among the crowd of about 25 individuals. Some provided recaps of the project and of the history of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, designated an All-American Road by the FHA in 2000. The importance of the road to the region’s tourism industry, ranching community and commerce was highlighted several times.
Why not mark the progression of fall with a scenic drive around the byway this weekend? There are still plenty of autumn leaves to brighten the landscape and make you want to stop for photo opportunities. Officials caution that wildlife is plentiful, so please slow down and take the time to enjoy this magnificent corridor through our corner of the world. Shops and restaurants are open throughout the byway to sooth a hungry stomach or provide what you want in picnic supplies or souvenirs. Check the Visitor Resources page for information from the chambers of commerce.