Bly & Chiloquin, Oregon Highway 140

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If you’re headed from the Oregon Outback to Crater Lake, you will probably end up on Oregon Highway 140.  This road cuts across a vast, sparsely-populated area in south-central Oregon.

My Visit

My day began in Lakeview, Oregon — one of the very few towns big enough to offer a variety of services.  After driving around Lakeview for a few minutes, I headed west on Oregon Route 140.

As you drive Highway 140, you’ll be passing through a rolling landscape with lots of irrigation equipment, barbed-wire fence, and only a handful of houses.  There are some small mountains in the distance, and it’s an enjoyable drive, even though it takes a while.  I was looking for an excuse to stretch my legs, when I arrived in…

Bly, Oregon

This is downtown Bly.  Heck, this is almost all of Bly.  I stopped to check out the antiques store on the corner, but it was closed.

The building next-door looked interesting.  I’m guessing the W.W.Smith Mercantile has been closed for some time…

… but, someone did put the effort into restoring an old ghost sign for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

No doubt, the Star Theater was the town’s centerpiece, a few decades ago.  It still looks pretty good, considering that it’s been closed for quite some time.  One posting on CinemaTreasures.org suggests that is is, or has been, used as a feed store.

I didn’t know it at the time, but while I was in Bly, I was just 11 miles away from an interesting historic landmark.  During World War II, the Japanese attempted to bomb the U.S. with explosives delivered by balloon.  The only successful bombing took place near Bly.  Six people, five of them children, were killed by a balloon bomb that landed in the wilderness on May 5, 1945.  The group was on a picnic — they were simply unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place a the wrong moment.  Elsie Mitchell and five children from a church in Bly became the only Americans killed by an enemy attack on U.S. soil during World War II.  Now, a monument stands near the site of the blast in the Mitchell Recreation Area, along Forest Road 348.

West of Bly, the wide-open, empty road continues, all the way to Klamath Falls.  Along the way, it swings north, then south again.  Since I was headed towards Crater Lake, I didn’t want to head all the way south to Klamath Falls, so I took Sprague River Road (County Road 858) towards…

Chiloquin, Oregon

While Bly appeared tiny and tidy, Chiloquin seemed to be slightly larger, but much more impoverished.  Almost everything in Chiloquin’s downtown district was shut down and boarded up…

… from the garage…

… to the gas station.  The town’s website says it was known as “Little Chicago” during its boom days, in the 1920’s and 30’s.  More recently, the local lumber mills closed, devastating the local economy.

The town’s old grain elevator still appeared to be in good condition, but there wasn’t much else to hold my interest, so I took a shortcut from Chiloquin, across US 97, to Oregon 62 — the road to Crater Lake.

Interesting Fact: Chiloquin is home to the world’s largest model railroad.  Train Mountain Railroad was a private train club that’s now open to the public.  It has 36 miles of 7.5-inch railroad track — with trains that are big enough to carry people around the property.

Oregon 62

A drive up Oregon 62 is very enjoyable.  It passes through some scenic farm and ranchland, surrounded by mountains.  Crater Lake is straight ahead of you, for most of the drive, although from here, it just looks like a collection of mountain peaks (all of which were part of the larger Mount Mazama, a volcano which erupted more than 4,200 years ago, creating the crater for Crater Lake.

Along the way, I stopped to take pictures of one barn, which seemed particularly scenic.

Between US 97 and the park, there are no gas stations.  You will, however, find a couple of motels in the very small town of Fort Klamath.  After that, there’s just one lodging option — Wilson’s Cottages, where I stayed — before you enter the park.

Keep in mind that Oregon 62 is the only road to Crater Lake that’s maintained throughout the winter months, although it may close briefly after major storms.  If you’re lucky, though, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the lake, any time of year.

The Bottom Line

The drive from Lakeview to Crater Lake is long, but enjoyable, thanks to a few interesting small communities, and many miles of bucolic countryside.

Location

Oregon 140 begins where Nevada 140 ends — at the state line.  The highway makes its way to Lakeview, Oregon, and briefly runs concurrent with US 395.  West of Lakeview, it passes through ranch and farmland, and only a few small communities, including Bly, Oregon.

Oregon 140 eventually reaches Klamath Falls and Medford, but my route took me away from 140, long before I reached either of those cities.  I turned north on Sprague River Road for a shortcut to Chiloquin, Oregon, and Route 62, which leads into Crater Lake National Park.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Lakeview to Bly …

… and Bly to Chiloquin, and on to Crater Lake National Park:

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