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  • Eric Gauger

Road Notes from John Day Country

The John Day River, which zigzags north and west through Oregon's arid middle, is undammed for its entire length. This makes the river a sort of symbolic character to the state - the John Day is free, wild and unpredictable.

California's suffering from drought this year was well known around North America, but the effect of the same drought on Oregon went largely unnoticed. In Portland, the drought meant sunny days and a warm winter, but beyond that, it was difficult to discern the real impact.

But as you head east from Portland, the visuals of the severity of the drought intensify. First, you see the receding glaciers of Mount Hood, and barren mountain wildflower meadows. As you pass near Warm Springs at the base of Mount Hood, what used to be beautiful desert scrub is now a hundred square miles of scorched earth.

This wildfire started when an outsized recreational vehicle drove along Highway 26 on bare rims, causing sparks to fly for a length of six miles.

For the rest of the John Day River and all the tips and tools you need to explore it, click here!

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