The opening of the scenic McKenzie Pass Highway (Oregon 242) is a sure sign that summer is here.
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) maintenance crews will open the 36-mile long highway at noon on Thursday, July 1. The highway closed for the winter on October 30, 2003.
Oregon 242 follows the original route of the McKenzie Highway between Eugene and Sisters. Every year since its opening in 1925, ODOT (or its predecessor) has closed the highway in the winter due to the difficulty of removing snow from the deep cuts and steep mountainsides. When the Clear Lake - Belknap Springs section of Oregon 126 opened in the early 1960s, and remained open all winter, ODOT gave the old section a new route number - Oregon 242 - designating it a secondary route. It has since been designated a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration.
ODOT officials say the 226 day winter closure is about average for the scenic highway. The longest winter closure - 256 days - occurred in 1999. The shortest closure was in 1934, when the highway was closed for only 96 days. The highway remained open for 250 days in 1934, the longest on record. The shortest time open was 90 days in 1999.
ODOT reports about 1,000 vehicles a day travel the 36 mile long route between Sisters and the McKenzie Junction with Oregon 126 during the summer months.