Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Viewpoint
There is a historical landmark just outside of Terrebonne, OR, that isn’t extremely fun filled or large, but the 300 ft canyon housing the Crooked River is worth a look. From the AAA 4-diamond FivePine Lodge and Shibui Spa in Sisters, OR, it is only a thirty to forty minute drive. As you leave the parking lot, turn left onto highway 20, then an immediate right at the “Y”, and another right onto highway 126. Follow this road to Redmond, about 18 miles East of Sisters, and continue on 126 through Redmond until you reach the parkway. At the last light, this is a “T”, turn left and head toward Terrebonne and Smith Rock (may say Madras on the sign instead of Terrebonne). Continue through Terrebonne, about 5 miles North of Redmond, and the viewpoint will be about ½ to 1 mile on your left. Is well marked as Peter Skene Ogden and has a rest area.
When you enter the parking lot, the canyon is not within sight and it will appear to be just another park with restrooms and picnic tables. If you park farther to the left, there is an informational sign on Peter Skene Ogden that gives some background on the purpose of naming this park after him. As you wander past large trees on the pathways, concrete railings come into view and you begin to see the far wall of this large basalt canyon. Definitely not as large or magnificent as the Grand Canyon, but the winding river that rushes below makes it quite the view. When I look at the height of the canyon and the distance from one side to another, it is amazing to know how much work and time these bridges took to build. You also can’t help but appreciate the convenience they provide. Could you imagine traveling miles and miles just to find a crossable area?
To the left is the Oregon Trunk Rail bridge built in 1911, quite a feat for that time and it is still in use today by the railroad. On your right, you can see the old two lane bridge, also called the Crooked River High Bridge that was opened for use in 1926 to accommodate the increased traffic to Central Oregon. This worked for awhile, but the road was so narrow, wide loads would have traffic stopped in both directions until they finished crossing. Some truck drivers even remember touching mirrors as they simultaneously crossed the bridge. Increased traffic on Hwy 97 was just too much for this work of art as Central Oregon began booming in the 20th century. Motorized vehicles are no longer allowed on the old highway, but bikers and pedestrians still cross the Crooked River on this historical path to get some great photos from both sides.
To meet the demand of Central Oregon’s increased truck traffic, The Crooked River Bridge was constructed in 2000. Just three years later, it was changed to the Rex T. Barber Bridge in honor of the fighter pilot, a native who fought in World War II, that brought down the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. There is a great informational memorial to the right of the old bridge entrance providing the history of Rex T. Barber and why he was so important. Additionally, this stretch of road still holds and is recognized to this day as a Blue Star Memorial Highway. This tribute to the Armed Forces is only a small portion of miles dedicated throughout the United States. Thanks to this new bridge, highway 97 can continue to service thousands of drivers daily while the historical site can still be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
As you take one last look, see if the waterfall just past the Rex T. Barber Bridge is running. Depending on the season, you could get this little extra treat and a nice picture. It comes straight out of the canyon wall and is pretty amazing. As I said, it is not full of entertainment or the most popular place to visit in Central Oregon, but I feel the history and view are worth the trip. To help extend your trip, you could also choose to continue North to Maragas Winery for a taste of their local wine, they are only ½ mile or so up the road. Or you could stop at Smith Rock, just East of Terrebonne, for other great views of Central Oregon.