Cascades, Central Oregon, Burns, Malheur Lake

- August 12, 2000 -

In August 2000, my parents took a road trip out to Burns, and they invited me along. I gladly tagged along, because I love road trips...

... and I brought my mom's digital camera with me. Thus a tradition was born. :)

I got my own digital camera in November 2000, and I began taking road trips of my own in April 2001.

US 20.

More US 20. Mt. Washington is in the distance.

Lost Lake, along US 20.

Black Butte, in Jefferson County.

A Central Oregon forest, along US 20.

The Cascades! Specifically, Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters, taken somewhere between Sisters and Tumalo on US 20.

Pilot Butte (4,138'). Taken along US 20 eastbound through Bend (near Burnside Orthodontics!)

US 20, about 2 miles out of Bend, heading toward Burns. This is what US 20 looks like when you first leave Bend...

US 20, about 12 miles out of Bend... the trees are starting to fade away.

US 20, near Millican, about 25 miles southeast of Bend. The mountain on the right is Pine Mountain. 

US 20, in the freaking middle of nowhere. This is a pretty typical southeast Oregon view. And northern Nevada. And southern Idaho. And... ;)

Riley, Oregon. This little town is about 20 miles west of Burns.


Looks pretty well inhabited, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. ;)

None of this stuff was here when I went through here in 1993. And yet Burns is shrinking, population-wise. It's odd, really.

Warning to those going to Malheur Lake: Some locals have never heard of it (even though it's freaking huge and only 25 miles away). We discovered this sad situation by asking for directions. ;) 

Also note that there's a restaurant along OR 78 in Burns that laces all steaks, and even their fettuccine alfredo, with little cubes of chopped garlic (ewww!!!) Be prepared. ;)

OR 205, heading south toward Malheur Lake.

Looks like this could be a picture of a little farm road in the Willamette Valley somewhere near Albany, doesn't it? 

Well, no. This is Harney County, Oregon, and it's this green in the middle of August because there's a big freaking lake on the other side of that ridge. (Some people in Burns don't know that, though. ;) )

Narrows, Oregon.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Yansa. Yansa lived in La Grande, Oregon, which is a very boring place. (However, it is not nearly as boring as the place pictured above. One other difference: People who live 25 miles from La Grande have actually heard of La Grande. ;) )

Yansa liked maps, and he liked to tape together Street Atlas USA printouts and draw cities in various uninhabited locales. Usually these were in Alaska... but when it comes to being uninhabited, it's tough to beat Harney County, Oregon, whose population density resembles that of Mongolia's Gobi Desert.

Plus, Harney County features a big freaking lake -- in fact, two of them, Harney and Malheur lakes. This struck Yansa as being like a homegrown version of the Great Salt Lake... it practically cried out for a massive and unique civilization. 

So Yansa drew the outposts of this civilization into place along the shores of Malheur and Harney lakes. In this geographic scenario, a large number of Spanish conquistadors had become lost in the Southwest, wandered through the Great Basin, and stumbled upon these lakes in about 1610. In time, they intermarried with the local Paiute tribe, and a hybrid Spanish-Paiute civilization was begun along the shores of the lakes, isolated and ignored by the Western world until the late 1800s.

The lakefront spot from which this picture was taken was the very center of this civilization. The chief's palace was just to the left, and the main marketplace was to the right.

Six years later, when Yansa's parents took a trip to Burns, naturally Yansa pleaded that they take a little side-trip, so he could see this location. After all, he had spent a month or two of his free time charting the growth of a civilization in these environs... so naturally he was curious to see what the reality of this distant land was like. 

Well, there it is.

Prosaic, isn't it? ;)

On the left (east) side of the road: Malheur Lake. On the right (west) side: Mud Lake, which was a bay of Harney Lake in the 1980s when the lakes were overflowing.

(Y'know, it all looks a lot waterier on maps. Also more interesting. ;) )

Malheur Lake. Facing southeast.

Malheur Lake, facing east.

Malheur Lake, facing northeast.

Malheur Lake, facing north-northeast.

In my scenario map, the chief's palace was in that soggy spot near those yellow bushes, and the downtown area of the city surrounded his palace. As the city grew in more modern times, skyscrapers would tower along the edge of the lake -- but from ~1610 to ~1750, there was a small town here, and a little village existed on the other side of the strait between Malheur Lake and Mud Lake (on the map, the strait was shown right behind the spot where I was standing). The little village was famous for its monastery and its marketplace.

Do you care about some scenario map that I drew in 1994? No. But this is my web page, and these are my pictures, so you have to put up with it, nyah nyah nyah ;)

Mud Lake, facing west.

Mud Lake, facing southwest. Yep, those are cattle grazing in the lake.

Mud Lake, facing northwest.

Sunset? Oscilloscope? Eh?

I tried to take a picture of the sun setting over the Cascades, but it was too dark for the camera to capture it from inside the car.

There are mountains in the picture. There are clouds in this picture. There are windshield wipers in the picture. There is a road sign in this picture. And there is an oscilloscope-looking thing in the picture that I cannot explain. I blame space aliens. ;)

Text last modified on 22 September 2003.
Last updated 19 January 2006.