ODOT expects 'indefinite closure' of historic McKenzie Pass Hwy 242 after Milli Fire

Oregon DOT officials anticipate an "indefinite closure" of historic Highway 242 due to impacts from the Milli Fire during summer 2017. (ODOT)

EUGENE, Ore. - The earliest closure of Highway 242 for the winter happened two decades ago when state transportation managers shut the gates October 18, 1996.

Whether the August 17, 2017, closure due to wildfires lasts until winter remains to be seen.

But the Oregon Department of Transportation said impacts from the Milli Fire will result in an "indefinite" closure of the old McKenzie Pass Highway.

The highway reopened to cars June 19, 2017, at 8 a.m.

It remained open for 59 days before fire activity forced the road to close.

If the highway doesn't reopen before the snow flies, this will be the shortest open period in the highway's history. In 1999, Hwy 242 was only open to traffic July 29 to Oct. 27 - just 90 days.

The highway is only open a limited number of months each year, typically closing in the late fall due to snow.

Originally built in the 1870s as a toll road, it became an Oregon highway in 1925.

After the completion of the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of Highway 126 in 1962, old McKenzie Pass Highway became a seasonal road. Oregon highway offiicals found it too narrow, high and winding to maintain in winter. Plows clear the route in the spring as the snow begins to melt.

The route accesses both the Three Sisters and Mount Washington wilderness areas, and provides a panoramic view of the Cascades from Dee Wright Observatory on the summit.

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