Route 66

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Oregon 66, also known as the "Green Springs Highway" is one of the state's most interesting drives. Little-changed since the days it served as U.S. 97 (before that route was extended south from Klamath Falls to Weed in 19341), the present-day state route has retained the twisting "S" curves and narrow shoulders of the original federal highway. The state of Oregon has, in fact, designated the road as a "historic highway" along a 41-mile stretch between the town of Keno in the east and Buckhorn Road in the west.

Historically, Oregon 66 ranged further east, connecting Klamath Falls with Lakeview. With the completion of Oregon 140 between Klamath Falls and Medford, that portion of highway 66 was re-numbered and became the eastern segment of Oregon 140.

East of the Cascade Range, westbound Oregon 66 starts at the U.S. 97/ Oregon 140 interchange in Klamath Falls. From there, it heads west over the Cascades, crossing three mountain passes along the way. The final 20 miles are particularly exciting as the road hugs the steep sides of the Cascade foothills as it drops quickly to the floor of the Rogue River Valley. Oregon 66 meets its western terminus at Oregon 99 in the Rogue Valley town of Ashland.

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Westbound Oregon 66 begins its journey at the Oregon 140-U.S. 97 interchange in south Klamath Falls. Traffic headed for westbound Oregon 140 and Medford will turn right at a signaled intersection; the main route then defaults to Oregon 66. Photos taken 07/22/06.
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Past the turn-off for Oregon 140, Oregon 66 travels through the Stewart-Lennox district on the southern fringe of Klamath Falls. A mileage sign shows that Ashland is but 61 miles away. They are, however, a long and winding 61 miles. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Now clear of Klamath Falls, the Green Springs Highway heads through Klamath Basin farmlands and pastures. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Mount Shasta in northern California looms on the distant horizon as Oregon 66 heads for the Cascade Range. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Oregon 66 encounters Round Lake Road, leading to the Round Lake Golf Course. Photo taken 07/22/06.
It's not unusual to see tractors and other farm machinery traveling on Oregon 66 between Klamath Falls and Keno. Photo taken 07/22/06.
This stretch of Oregon 66 is fairly straight and level, but that will change after the town of Keno. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Tough, drought-tolerant western junipers, like these along the right shoulder, dot the foothills that border Oregon 66. They will soon give way to forests of ponderosa pine and fir when the highway enters the mountains. Photo taken 07/22/06.
The Green Springs Highway meets Clover Creek Road just outside Keno. The state highway bends to the left at the intersection to head into the town. If you're looking for a different way to Ashland, try Clover Creek Road which travels northwest past Surveyor Mountain and links with Dead Indian Memorial Road. Dead Indian Memorial meets Oregon 66 at Ashland. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 enters the tiny town of Keno past the junction with Clover Creek Road. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Oregon 66 meets the Klamath River upon entering the town. Originating at Upper Klamath Lake, it starts as a fairly wide, peaceful, slow-moving river. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Once in Keno, the Green Springs Highway bends west again at this junction with Keno-Worden Road. Keno-Worden road travels southeast to join U.S. 97 just north of the Oregon-California border. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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It doesn't take long to get through Keno. The town is nestled among forests of ponderosa pines. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Oregon 66 leaves Keno and encounters this mileage sign for Ashland (50 miles) and Pinehurst (26 miles). Photo taken 07/22/06.
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After leaving Keno, the Green Springs Highway climbs a small grade to begin its journey across the southern Oregon Cascade Range. Since the elevation at Keno is already over 4,100 feet, the ascent to the passes on the east slope is moderate. Photos taken 07/22/06.
This orange sign warns of upcoming bridge construction at the Klamath River. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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ODOT is currently constructing a new bridge for the highway's crossing of the Klamath River west of Keno. Slated for completion in November 2006, the bridge and subsequent realignment of the highway will smooth out a couple of kinks in the road encountered after the present crossing. Photos taken 07/22/06.
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Until the end of 2006, westbound Oregon 66 will cross the Klamath River for a second time via this narrow bridge across John Boyle Reservoir. The John C. Boyle dam and hydroelectric power plant reside about a mile south of here. Notice the power lines in the background of the second image. Photos taken 07/22/06.
The new alignment of Oregon 66 will eliminate this sharp curve encountered after the Klamath River crossing. Photo taken 07/22/06.
There are several other routes that traverse the southern Cascades divide; here Oregon 66 meets Keno Access Road. This alternate route ranges northwest to meet Dead Indian Memorial Road near Howard Prairie Lake in neighboring Jackson County. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Ponderosa pines, Douglas-firs, and white firs comprise the bulk of east side Cascades forests here. Sugar pines, incense-cedars, and Western white pines are also seen. These views are near Hayden Mountain Pass, the first of three passes Oregon 66 will encounter. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Green Springs Highway crosses its second pass at Parker Mountain. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Oregon 66 travels west from Parker Mountain and crosses into Jackson County. Photo taken 07/22/06.
After entering Jackson County, Oregon 66 soon encounters Pinehurst. Pinehurst isn't a town, but the locale is home to the historic Pinehurst Inn. Currently operated as a bed and breakfast, the inn was built from local timber during the 1920s, and became a prominent landmark along the Green Springs Highway. Photo taken 07/22/06.
A school crossing sign may seem out of place along a heavily-forested route, but there is a school in the upcoming settlement of Lincoln. At this point, Oregon 66 is traveling through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a 53,000-acre chunk of land set aside in 2000 to recognize the region's ecological diversity. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Oregon 66 enters Lincoln, and yes, there is a school in this seemingly remote location. Also located in Lincoln is the Oregon Extension of Houghton College (third image), a Christian liberal-arts college based in New York State that offers off-campus programs throughout the world. Photos taken 07/22/06.
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After departing Lincoln, highway 66 heads next to Tub Springs State Wayside, named after water tubs that were installed during the 1930s to provide spring water for travelers. The wayside is also an Applegate Trail Interpretive Site, with interpretive signs describing the wagon train led by Jesse Applegate that passed through the area in 1846.2 Photos taken 07/22/06.
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After leaving Tub Springs, westbound traffic on the Green Springs Highway is treated to a passing lane, one of the few "modern" features seen along the mostly narrow, two-lane route. Photos taken 07/22/06.
According to this sign along the approach to the Hyatt Lake junction, Ashland is 17 miles away. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Curiously, the sign cluster at the Hyatt Lake junction now shows the distance to Ashland as 18 miles. Hyatt Lake Road departs Oregon 66 and heads north to Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes, popular boating and fishing destinations. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Heading west from Hyatt Lake junction, Oregon 66 soon negotiates a hairpin turn at the Keene Creek Reservoir crossing. After Keene Creek, the highway makes its final climb to Green Springs Mountain Summit. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 crosses its last pass: the 4,551-foot Green Springs Mountain Summit. As the saying goes, "it's all downhill from here." This is literally the case, as the highway will drop nearly 2,600 feet to the floor of the Rogue Valley in the next 15 miles. Photo taken 07/22/06.
The downhill grade begins almost immediately following Green Springs Mountain Summit. Photo taken 07/22/06.
As westbound Oregon 66 snakes its way down the mountainside, views of the Rogue Valley and Siskiyou Mountains beyond become visible along the south shoulder. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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A steep, rocky slope borders the north shoulder, and there's not much room for the highway between it and the precipitous drop along the south shoulder. This section of the Green Springs highway hasn't changed much throughout its history: it's nearly as narrow and just as twisty as it was back in its U.S. 97 days. Photos taken 07/22/06.
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In a few spots, the south shoulder is wide enough to allow motorists to pull over and take in panoramic views of the Rogue Valley and Siskiyou Mountains. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Vegetation, most notably the trees, begins to change as the highway drops in elevation. Oregon white oaks become increasingly common. Photo taken 07/22/06.
When westbound Oregon 66 faces the Siskiyou Mountains, as in this view, Interstate 5 can be seen as a narrow diagonal line running up the middle of the mountainside in the background. The prominent peak at the center is 7,533-foot Mount Ashland, home to the Mount Ashland Ski Area. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Brown and gold tones greet travelers as they descend into the Rogue River Valley in summer. Winter and spring rains transform these same hills into a lush, richly-hued green. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Oregon white oaks are now the dominant tree species on these dry southwest-facing slopes, and the hillsides may remind some travelers of California oak-chapparal environments.

Cyclists heading up the Green Springs Highway (second image) certainly have a lot of hard pedaling ahead of them. Photos taken 07/22/06.
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Nearing the valley floor, the precipitous drop that once marked the south shoulder has transformed into a moderate slope. Still, westbound Oregon 66 challenges drivers with a few more downhill winding curves before things begin to level out. Photos taken 07/22/06.
The Green Springs Highway is nearing the end of its downhill journey by the time it reaches Buckhorn Road. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Part of the original route of Oregon 66 is now under the waters of Emigrant Lake, created by the damming of nearby Emigrant Creek. A remnant of the old route departs from the main highway but dead-ends at the lake. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Prior to 1938, westbound Oregon 66 ended at this junction with what is now called the "Old Siskiyou Highway." Before the completion of a new route over the Siskiyous in that year, U.S. 99 headed out of Ashland along the present-day route of Oregon 66 to this junction and then continued up a winding course to Siskiyou Summit. Present-day drivers can follow the path of the historic Pacific Highway by driving the Old Siskiyou route and get a taste of what mountain motoring was like 70 years ago. At one point, the highway negotiates a 270-degree turn and crosses over itself.

Although it is not mentioned on the advance or junction signs, the Old Siskiyou Highway is signed as Oregon 273 after the junction. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Oregon 66 is now on the floor of the Rogue Valley. The elevation at Ashland is 1,895 feet and most towns in the valley are between 1,000-2,000 feet above sea level. The Rogue Valley is much dryer on average than its northern neighbors, the Umpqua and Willamette valleys, both of which average 30-50 inches annually, depending on the site. Average annual rainfall totals in the Rogue Valley typically range from 20-30 inches. Photo taken 07/22/06.
The entrance to the Emigrant Lake Recreation Area is announced on a low sign next to the Green Springs Highway. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 meets a few more rural roads before entering Ashland; here is the junction with Neil Creek Road and Corp Ranch Road. Photo taken 07/22/06.
There's a paltry number of Oregon 66 shields along much of the route, but as the highway closes in on Ashland, they start to reappear. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 meets Dead Indian Memorial Road at the edge of Ashland. The original name of this road attracted some controversy in the early 1990s. Prior to that time it was known simply as "Dead Indian Road," a name which many long-time valley residents probably still call it. However, some objected to the name (especially the "Dead" part) and proposed renaming it "Indian Memorial Road." Others wanted to preserve the historic name, so the compromise of "Dead Indian Memorial Road" was reached. The road itself, by whatever name, crosses the Cascade Divide near Lake of the Woods and connects with Oregon 140 in Klamath County. Photo taken 07/22/06.
The Green Springs Highway enters the city of Ashland (pop. 19,522 in 2000), home of the Oregon Shakespearean Festival. The highway meets East Main Street at a wye intersection. East Main also heads into town, but Oregon 66 (Ashland Street) is the primary commercial route. Photo taken 07/22/06.
This sign announces the upcoming junction of Oregon 66 and Interstate 5 in southeast Ashland. Photo taken 07/22/06.
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Oregon 66 and Interstate 5 meet at the south Ashland diamond interchange (I-5 exit 14). Though there is another Ashland exit (exit 19), northbound I-5 skirts the town for the most part as it heads to Medford, about 14 miles away. Southbound I-5 starts its climb to Siskiyou Summit almost immediately upon leaving Ashland. Yreka, California is the first town of significant size southbound traffic will encounter. Photos taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 (Ashland Street) is on its home stretch as it passes through a strip of commercial developments in south Ashland. Notice the low height of all business signs along the highway. Ever-intent on preserving its image as a clean, hip, tourist-friendly city, Ashland has a strict sign code designed to prevent the visual "pollution" created by taller signs. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Drivers heading into town encounter their first traffic signal at the intersection of Ashland Street and Tolman Creek Road. Photo taken 07/22/06.
This overpass carries Oregon 66/ Ashland Street over Hamilton Creek and the old Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. Photo taken 07/22/06.
It's clear from this view coming down the overpass that Ashland is serious about maintaining a friendly and welcoming image. Note the tree islands in the median: these recent additions echo similar islands that have graced Siskiyou Boulevard (Oregon 99) since the early 20th Century. Photo taken 07/22/06.
More stubby signs announce retail shops along Oregon 66. The signaled intersection in the background is at Walker Avenue. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Traffic headed for southbound Oregon 99 (Siskiyou Boulevard) should turn left at Walker Avenue. Continue ahead on Ashland Street for northbound Oregon 99. Photo taken 07/22/06.
Westbound Oregon 66 comes to an end at Oregon 99 (Siskiyou Boulevard), adjacent to the Southern Oregon University campus. A right-turn only at Siskiyou Boulevard is the reason traffic headed for southbound Oregon 99 must turn left at Walker Avenue. From here, northbound Oregon 99 passes through Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, and Central Point before rejoining I-5 at exit 35. Photo taken 07/22/06.

Sources:

  1. Information on early U.S. 97 from Wikipedia, the Free Online Encyclopedia
  2. Information from Oregon Parks and Recreation


Photo Credits:

07/22/06 by Matt Strieby

Connect with:
Interstate 5
U.S. 97

Page Updated 08-21-2006.