Dee Wright Observatory
The Dee Wright Observatory (57600 McKenzie River Hwy., 541/822-3381, on Rte. 242), closed in winter at the first sign on snow, is at McKenzie Pass about halfway between the McKenzie River Highway and Sisters. Built in the early 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project, it was named for the building’s supervisor, who died prior to its completion.
The tower windows line up with views of Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, and two of the Three Sisters, as well as the 8-mile-long, half-mile-wide lava flow that bubbled out of nearby Yapoah a little less than 3,000 years ago. On a clear day, you can even see the tip of Mount Hood.
The 0.5-mile Lava River Trail next to the observatory offers a fine foray into the surrounding hills of rolling black rock. In addition to helpfully placed and concise interpretive placards explaining the lava formations, the trail is wheelchair accessible. But while the walk is easy enough, the 5,300-foot elevation can sometimes make it seem a little more difficult. Note that on Route 242, vehicle length is restricted to a maximum of 35 feet.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel