History of Oregon by Oregon Historical Society
homeSection 6Subtopic: Tourism and Rec...
Subtopic : Post-Industrial Years: 1970-Present: Tourism and Recreation

Themes: People and the Environment, Social Relations, Economics

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Fisherman and Trailer, 1956
Cove Palisades State Park
CN 008097

Judge John B. Waldo, an early visitor to the central Oregon Cascades, commented in a letter written on August 24, 1880, on the recreational potential that the area offered:

This evening we are all here—have had a fine supper—and my blankets are spread for the night within the same circle of trees and their grassy carpet which concealed me, and from which I fired my shots at the deer. Think of this, my friends in the Valley, and weep.

Waldo, perhaps unlike his “friends in the Valley,” was a gentleman of leisure who could afford extended outings in the high Cascades each summer. For most Americans, wilderness recreation was not available until rail and motor transportation made the central Oregon country accessible. Railroad access to central Oregon was available after the completion of the Oregon Trunk Railway in 1911, but highways across the Cascades lagged until the completion of Highway 26, the Wapinitia route near Mt. Hood, and Highway 22, the North Santiam route, in the 1930s. Additional highways linked central Oregon to the Willamette Valley, including the Willamette Pass (Highway 58), the South Santiam Pass (Highway 20), and the McKenzie Pass (Highway 126).  Automobile tourism brought visitors to central Oregon to enjoy outdoor sports including fishing, hunting, mountaineering, and summer camping. The Pilot Butte Inn in Bend was an early destination for many visitors.

Logging and Recreation, 1912
One of the first fruits of improved recreational access to central Oregon, ironically, was a clash between the recreationists and the lumber industry. In 1912, the Southern Pacific Railway had recently been completed to Kirk, a point forty miles north of Klamath Falls. Wealthy sportsmen from California journeyed by rail to the end of the line, which was located in the Klamath Reservation, along the Williamson River. There they were to go fishing in an unspoiled location. To their chagrin, they found Klamath County logger Milburn Knapp driving logs down the Williamson to his mill near Chiloquin. Since the Indian Service had sold Knapp the logs on the reservation, the Californians sued the Indian Service for spoiling their sport. The courts forced Knapp to abandon his contract. 

The Lumber Business and Recreation, 1950-1970
As early as the 1950s and 1960s, capital from the lumber industry fueled the development of  destination resorts. Prineville lumbermen John Hudspeth and Lee Evans began the Sunriver development in the 1950s, eventually selling to Portland developer John Gray. During the 1960s Brooks-Scanlon formed Brooks Resources, a land development subsidiary which developed several recreational properties including Black Butte Ranch. Bend lumberman Leonard Lundgren developed House on the Metolius, a resort community near Camp Sherman. Other lumber interests including the Stevenson family from Stevenson, Washington, and the Wendt family from Klamath Falls have been heavy investors in central Oregon resorts and recreation businesses.

© Ward Tonsfeldt & Paul G. Claeyssens, 2004.

Themes: People and the Environment,Social Relations,Economics

Regions: Central Oregon

Date: 1950-1970

Author: Ward Tonsfeldt & Paul G. Claeyssens

In light of the decline of the lumber industry, central Oregon has turned to recreation and tourism as a piece of its new economic base.

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