Clear Lake Cutoff & Forest Roads (Clear Lake Truck Trail) – Willamette National Forest OR

Description

Vehicle access within the Willamette National Forest (WNF) was quite limited in 1933. Consequently, developing truck trails or access roads was a high priority for the US Forest Service for fire management. When Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees arrived in the summer of 1933, they were immediately put to work developing a truck trail from Belknap Springs on the McKenzie Highway north to Clear Lake, and ultimately connecting to US Hwy 20 and the Santiam Highway.  Portions of those road improvements are currently maintained as forest service roads while the remainder has been improved as State Highway 126, known at the Clear Lake Cutoff.

The significance of this early road work was described in a US Forest Service report that outline the accomplishments of CCC Camp Belknap workers. In the 1935 report, the author refers to the first company of CCC enrollees who came from Missouri:

“The Missouri boys soon found out that they did not come West to plant trees. The forest hummed with activity. The faint line of surveyor stakes was followed by the axe and saw. The right of way was cleared. Tons of dynamite lifted the stumps and shattered the rock obstructions. Heavy machinery appeared, roughing out and grading. Bridges were built. Farther and farther the sound of the motors penetrated the wilderness. Finally came the historic, the eventful day when a motor car crossed the divide, bumped its way over the last barriers and triumphantly rolled down the new road to join the McKenzie highway near Belknap hot springs.”

An Oregonian report in summer 1934 described the Clear Lake road as nearing completion and with sufficient priority that an extra crew had been put on it to insure it open by winter. Improvements continued however. In 1938, another Oregonian report indicated that the forest’s District Ranger announced the opening of the Belknap Springs-Clear Lake road, giving Eugene access to Bend via the Santiam Pass. The map below compares the road’s early right-of-way with the current highway alignment. The current highway reflects changes made to the state highway in 1962. As noted, other portions of the Belknap Springs – Clear Lake truck trail remain as US Forest Service roads.

Source notes

"Belknap Camp, November 1935," Report from Willamette National Forest, US Forest Service. Archive File: Forest History Center, Salem OR.

"Clear Lake Truck Trail Map." Cartographer Jim Reed. August 2022.

"The Cascadia Belknap Springs-Clear Lake Road was opened today," Oregonian. May 26, 1938.

"Work on Roads Pushed: Two Projects in Willamette Forest Near Completion," Oregonian. August 12,1934.

Project originally submitted by Jim Reed on October 28, 2022.
Additional contributions by Judith Kenny.

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Location Info


OR Hwy 126
McKenzie Bridge, OR 97413

Location notes: The Clear Lake Cutoff and Clear Lake Forest Roads are in both Lane and Linn counties.

Coordinates: 44.256, -122.0347

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