Snow kept McKenzie Pass closed until August

Snow kept McKenzie Pass closed until August

McKENZIE BRIDGE, Ore. (AP) -- The old McKenzie Pass Highway will open for the summer Saturday after the Oregon Department of Transportation closed the snow gates to the twisty scenic route last Nov. 1.

The extended closure was caused by an $800,000 bridge replacement project that didn't begin until June because of a lingering snowpack.

The snowpack also hampered access from the snow gate near Sisters, delaying a tree removal project. That gate has been opened intermittently on weekends since July 14 to bicycles and pedestrians.

The lower western snow gate at White Branch was opened June 21 to allow public access to Proxy Falls, Alder Springs Campground and other areas.

The old highway, Oregon 242 between Springfield and Sisters, and is open only during the summer. | MAP

The longest open period occurred in 1934, at 250 days. The earliest open date was March 21, 1934, and the latest (other than construction-related delays) was July 29, 1999.

The shortest open period was 90 days in 1999.

Built in the mid-1930s, the highway became a seasonal scenic highway in the 1960s with the completion of faster the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of Highway 126.

The twisting road and high elevation, topping out at 5,325 feet, makes it too difficult to maintain in winter.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.)