Photos and article
By Greg Johnson, travel writer
Summer Lakes Hot Springs is a rustic 145-acre resort in eastern Oregon featuring natural artesian hot mineral springs, cabins, campgrounds and nature trails.
To get there, take a drive in Oregon’s Outback on Oregon 31 (turnoff hwy 97 just south of La Pine.) Oregon 31 gradually rises to a pine forest before the road descends into the sagebrush, juniper and rocky outcrops of Oregon’s high desert. Eventually, the fortress-like towering volcanic crater at Fort Rock rises from the desert landscape. Visitors can take a hike inside the fort walls and tour the historic buildings at the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Museum.
Further east past the community of Silver Lake, Paulina Marsh is a haven for wildlife including eagles and herons. At almost 5,000 feet, the road crests at Picture Rock Pass, where visitors can see ancient Native American petroglyphs and views of surrounding mountain ranges on the Medicine Man Trail.
The descent into Summer Lake offers views of the long, shallow alkaline body of water that draws an enormous variety of waterfowl. The majestic mountain range set against the lake-filled green valley is an amazing sight.
Birders flock to the 18,000-acre Summer Lake Wildlife Area in early spring to view tundra swans, peregrine falcons and other endangered species migrating on the Pacific Flyway. A short 8.3 mile auto tour route provides close views of the wildlife during open season from mid-January to October.
For a special treat, reserve a table at the popular Cowboy Dinner Tree in Silver Lake to feast on a savory slab of steak or a whole roasted chicken served with beans and bread.
For further information:
La Pine, contact the La Pine Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, 541-536-9772, www.lapine.org.
Summer Lake Hot Springs, summerlakehotsprings.com, 541-943-3931.
Cowboy Dinner Tree, 541-576-2426, www.cowboydinnertree.net.
To order a free Oregon Outback Scenic Byway map, go to www.traveloregon.com.