The c2sea TRAIL connects Corvallis and Waldport.

Over the river and through the woods,
it's about 70 miles and all downhill from Corvallis to the Pacific Ocean -- except for the mountains!

Ups and downs add another three miles -- about 15,000 vertical feet -- to the route that's been talked about as a recreational trail since the 1970s.

For 15 years, Oregon mountain bike racers welcomed spring with the Corvallis Mountain Bike Club's Mudslinger: 14, 21 or 26 miles with as much as a mile of ups and downs along the fire roads and trails of OSU's McForest. Steve Larsen won the 2000 race in 1:53:15, leading a field of 269 riders.

As recently as 1998, cyclists raced up Marys Peak, grinding granny gears on the 9.4-mile-long road connecting Highway 34 with the summit parking lot. Michael Rosenberg's 1996 effort of 40 minutes 8 seconds is still the time to beat for the 3,000-foot climb. Jessica Cortell holds the women's record of 49 minutes 53 seconds. The Mid-Valley Bicycle Club is planning a new Marys Peak Hill Climb for July 4, 2001.

The Siuslaw National Forest was one of 21 created by President Theodore Roosevelt's executive orders when he sidestepped a Congressional attempt to limit his ability to create and enlarge parks and forests. The Siuslaw National Forest is one of 15 National Forests Roosevelt created in Oregon by executive order between March 1, 1907 and February 13, 1909. America's conservation President set aside more than 230 million acres of land as 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, 18 national monuments and 24 reclamation projects.

The 630,395-acre Siuslaw combined the Tillamook Forest Reserve and acreage from the Umpqua Forest Reserve. Today, the U.S. Forest Service manages 15,658,000 acres in 13 Oregon National Forests. One of Roosevelt's first executive orders established Crater Lake National Park in 1902.

For more than half a century the Siuslaw was managed for multiple-use and a sustainable timber harvest. In the 1980s, foresters calculated the potential annual timber harvest at 453 million board feet: ". . . enough wood to build more than 30,000 three-bedroom homes." Harvests of as much as 350 million board feet produced $40 million budgets, a forest staff numbering nearly 500 and the construction of a 2,500-mile network of forest roads throughout the region.

But the change to "ecosystem management" in the 1990s, coupled with northern spotted owl and other environmental protections caused the timber industry to collapse. In 1994, logging in federal forests earned a profit of $122 million from the harvest of 4.8 billion board feet nationally. Four years later, only 1.2 billion board feet were cut and the forest service lost $126 million in fiscal 1998, the last year for which records are available.

With the Roadless Area Conservation Rule President Clinton banned road construction and new logging on 58.5 million acres of national forest land in 39 states, about 31 percent of all National Forests. Oregon's 13 National Forests cover about one-fourth of the state, some 15.6 million acres. Inventoried Roadless Areas numbered nearly 2 million acres. Only 34,000 roadless acres were recommended for the road and logging ban within the Siuslaw National Forest. They all border the 5,800 acre Drift Creek Wilderness northeast of Waldport which was established in 1984.

"The Roadless Area Conservation Rule of January 12, 2001, is presently the subject of eight lawsuits involving seven states, in six federal districts, and four federal circuits. The District Court of Idaho has preliminarily enjoined implementation of the rule. That decision is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. At this point, it appears that the roadless rule may be embroiled in legal controversy and process for a very long time, with an ultimate outcome that is far from certain.

   -- Dale N. Bosworth
      Chief, U.S. Forest Service
      June 7, 2001
Now, the Siuslaw National Forest only maintains about 800 miles of its backcountry roads. More than 1,700 miles of roads are overgrown or closed to vehicles by dirt berms, trenches or waterbars. Many of them are passable by mountain bike along a route like the one described below.

It's an epic journey, over the river and through the woods and up and down and up and down the ridges and hills from Corvallis to the sea. Sometimes the getting there is more important than the there, there, unless it's the Pacific Ocean.

"There is one colsolation a man has in living in Corvallis -- he can live to be an old man for he will never die of excitement. There is not enough of it here to ever be of any danger to a man's constitution."

   -- Corvallis Gazette Editorial
      March 15, 1889

  Click for Corvallis, Oregon Forecast

City of Corvallis
Corvallis Parks And Recreation
Corvallis Convention & Visitors Bureau
Benton County
Benton County Historical Museum
City of Waldport
Waldport Chamber of Commerce
Lincoln County

Hyperlink to Mary's Peak Search & Rescue.

Benton County ARES
Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit
Mary's Peak Search & Rescue

Hyperlink to Oregon Bicycle Racing Association.
The Bicycle Museum of America
The Bicycle Paper
Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Bicycling Magazine
Bike Friday
The Bike Gallery
Bike Magazine
Hyperlink to IMBA - 2001 Epic Rides including Oregon's classic North Umpqua Trail in the Umpqua National Forest.
Bike Magazine published this guide to IMBA's 2001 Epic Rides in the July 2001 issue, including Oregon's classic, 79-mile North Umpqua Trail.

Bike N' Hike
The Bike Shop
BikePAC of Oregon, Inc.
Bikes Belong Coalition, Ltd.
Blackberry bRamble
BlueRibbon Coalition
Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Articles
Burley Design Cooperative
Cascade Cream Puff
Center for Appropriate Transport
Central Oregon Trail Alliance
Coghead Corner
Cog Wild Bicycle Tours
Co-Motion Cycles
Coos Regional Trails Partnership
Corvallis Cyclery
Corvallis Mountain Bike Club
Covered Bridge Tour
Cycle Oregon 2001
Cycling News
Dictionary of Mountain Bike Slang
Dirt Rag Magazine
Disciples of Dirt
Discover Bicycles
Eugene, City of Bicycles!
Fat Tire Farm
FTF Cyclocross Crusade
Gateway Bicycles
Get A Grip Bicycles
Greater Eugene Area Riders
Gresham Bicycle
Gorge Games
Hutch's Bicycles
International Human Powered Vehicle Assn.

Published Siuslaw National Forest maps reflect the extensive decommissioning of roads over the past 20 years as this section from the current 1996 edition shows.

More than 1,700 miles of Siuslaw National Forest roads have been closed to vehicles since the 1980s. These sections of SNF maps show the "South Tract" area in 1982 and 1996 in one-mile squares.

SNF 1982 Map Section
SNF 1995 Road Map Section
SNF 1996 Map Section

Hyperlink to International Mountain Bicycling Association.

"New research suggests that mountain bikes and boots leave equal wear and tear on trails." by Michael Lanza, Appalachian Mountain Club Outdoors Magazine, April 2001

"Hey (Hey!) You (You!), Get Off of My Trail!"
by Jill Dantz, Outside Magazine, August 1999

Mountain Bikes: Biophysical Impacts,
Social Interactions and Sustainable Trail Management
by Alan Wayne Bjorkman, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois

Off-Road Impacts of Mountain Bikes
by Gordon R. Cessford,
Department of Conservation,
New Zealand, August 1995

Sierra Club Conservation Policies:
Off Road Use of Bicycles

    1. Ride on open trails only.
    2. Leave no trace.
    3. Control your bicycle.
    4. Always yield the trail.
    5. Never scare animals.
    6. Plan ahead.

International Mountain Bicycling Association
International Police Mountain Bike Association
Kissler's Cyclery
Land Shark
League of American Bicylists
McGillicuddy's Outpost
Merry Cranksters Mountain Bike Club

Hyperlink to Mid-Valley Bicycle Club.
Mid-Valley Bicycle Club
Millenium Trails
Mt. Hood Ski Bowl
Mountain Bike Magazine
Mountain Bike Action Magazine
Mountain Biking Magazine
Mountainbike Militiamen Movement
National Bicycle History Archive of America
National Center for Bicycling & Walking
National Off-Highway Vehicle Council
National Off-Road Bicycling Association
Newport High School Mountain Bike Club
NW Velo Cycling Team
A pretty girl on a fast bike was considered risque at the turn of the century. Her appearance heralded a change in values and announced the arrival of the women's movement. 

Hyperlink to The Bicycle & the West, an explanation of George Rosey's 1897 Scorcher March and Two-Step, the misadventures of Corvallis' own Col. T.E. Hogg, what Leonardo da Vinci had to do with it and some amazing photographs from the period.
The bicycle did more to change American society, business and culture and any other invention of the 19th century. Use this link to learn more about "scorchers," kyphosis bicyclistarum and turn-of-the-century Oregon. The LAW in this case was the League of American Wheelmen, now the League of American Bicylists.

19th Century Bicycle News

The Bicycle & The West

Oregon Adventures
Oregon Bicycle Statutes (ORS 814.400)
ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
Oregon Bicycle Racing Association
Oregon Coast Mountain Biking Camps
Oregon Cycling Magazine - Cycling
Oregon Equestrian Trails, Inc.
OET - Mid-Valley Chapter
Oregon Motorcycle Riders Association
Oregon Parks & Recreation Department
Oregon State University College of Forestry
Oregon State University Cycling Club
OSU McDonald - Dunn Research Forest
Oregon State University Mountaineering Club
Oregon State University Triathlon Club
Paul's Bicycle Way of Life
Peak Sports

Albert Einstein discovered protosingletrack in Santa Barbara, California on Feb. 6, 1933. The photograph was a gift of Ms. Evelina Hale in 1959. It is reproduced courtesy of The Archives, California Institute of Technology. (California Institute of Technology Photo ID 1.8-1) Use this link to discover the Science of Cycling at San Francisco's Exploratorium.
Albert Einstein discovered protosingletrack in Santa Barbara, California on Feb. 6, 1933. Photograph courtesy of The Archives, California Institute of Technology. Use this link to discover the Science of Cycling at San Francisco's Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts.

Pedaling History Bicycle Museum
City of Portland Bicycle Resources
Portland United Mountain Pedalers
Portland Wheelmen Touring Club
Race Across Oregon
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Reach the Beach
River City Bicycles
Rogue Valley Cycle Sport
Salem Bicycle Club
Santiam Slow Spokes Bicycle Club
Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic
Scenic Cycling Adventures
Scott's Cycle & Fitness
Sellwood Cycle Repair
Sims Cycle & Fitness
Siskiyou Cyclery
Siskiyou Velo
Southern Oregon Mountain Bike Association
Sports, Etc.
Summit to Surf
Summit Sports
Surf & Turf Challenge
Swanson, Thomas & Coon: Bicycle Law
Team Northwest Tandemonium
Team Oregon
Timberline Adventures
Tour de Blast
Tour of Willamette
Tread Lightly!
Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association
United Bicycle Institute
University of Oregon Cycling Team
University of Oregon Ducks Cycling
USA Cycling
Velo News Magazine
Women's Association of Mountainbikers
The Yankee Peddler

Georgia-Pacific Corporation
Oregon Forest Industries Council
Oregon Forest Resources Institute
Plum Creek Timber Company
Starker Forests
The Timber Company
Willamette Industries, Inc.

Georgia-Pacific Corporation's Timber Company completed its merger with the Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber Company on Oct. 8, 2001. Plum Creek is now the largest private timberland owner in the United States with more than 7.8 million acres of timberlands located in 19 states. This merger affects the "South Tract" and other lands along the proposed c2sea trail between Harlan and Toledo. The company owns 287,000 acres of forest lands in Oregon.

Junction FS 3109 and FS 1000, the highest point on the route at 1,769 feet. Select text links for detailed route maps. Note: these are large files, 556k and 1020 x 640 pixels.

Proposed c2seaTRAIL detail:
c2seaTRAIL: Philomath - Harlan
c2seaTRAIL: Marys Peak Option
c2seaTRAIL: Harlan - Bayview

Cycling Marys Peak Trails

Siuslaw National Forest
4077 S.W. Research Way
P.O. Box 1148
Corvallis, OR 97339
TEL: (541) 750-7000

Siuslaw National Forest
Waldport Ranger District
1094 S.W. Pacific Highway
Waldport, OR 97394
TEL: (541) 563-3211

Siuslaw National Forest
Mapleton Ranger District
4480 Highway 101, Bldg G
Florence, OR 97439
TEL: (541) 902-8526

USFS Outdoor Safety
USFS Roadless Areas
National Weather Service
Oregon Climate Service
Oregon Fire Weather Forecasts
Bureau of Land Management
BLM Off-Highway Vehicle Strategy

Leaves of three, let them be!
Poison Oak is common in the western and southeastern United States. In the West, poison oak is a very large plant which grows as a standing shrub or climbing vine.  Leaves appear green during the growing months and turn red in the fall.  Photograph and map from Dermik Laboratories, Inc.

"Poison oak and poison ivy can grow as shrubs, vines, or trees. In the winter, the leafless branches of poison oak or poison ivy still hold the harmful oils." -- OSU Extension

American Academy of Dermatology
Benadryl Spray FAQ
EnviroDerm Ivy Block FAQ
Dermik Psorcon FAQ
Extreme Mountain Biking
First Aid for Poison Ivy
GORP: Poison Oak
Life-Assist, Inc.
Nature's Revenge
OSU Extension: Poison Oak
OSU: Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Poison Oak
Poison Oak FAQ
Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac
Poison Oak by Armstrong and Epstein

Lion tracks show four toes on the front foot and four toes on the hind foot. The retractable claws do not show in the prints. Lion tracks can be over four inches long.  This is a lion track Kim Cabrera found near Albee Creek Campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California in April 1998.
Fresh Coast Range cougar track
© 1998 Kim A. Cabrera
from Mountain Lion (Cougar)

OSU McForest Cougar Encounter Tips
Safe Travel in Mountain Lion Country
Mountain Lion (Cougar)
Mountain Lion "WARNING!"
Desert USA - Mountain Lion
Felis concolor

A blue racer might be a fast bike, but it's also one of 15 species of Oregon snakes.  Check Oregon Public Broadcasting's Oregon Field Guide to Willamette Valley Snakes for more.

"Although the Willamette Valley is famous for its wet winters, surprisingly it is home to more snakes than anywhere else in the United States outside of Florida and the Southwest."
-- Oregon Public Broadcasting: "Oregon
Field Guide to Willamette Valley Snakes"

Reptiles & Amphibians of Oregon
Desert USA - Rattlesnakes
Treating and Preventing Venomous Bites
Snakebite Treatment Protocols
First Aid for Rattlesnake Bites

Western Rattlesnakes are found east of the Willamette River in the southern Willamette Valley, in southwest Oregon and in the high deserts east of the Cascades.

CDC - Cryptosporidiosis
CDC - Giardiasis

Copyright © 2001  Dennis Cowals
All rights reserved.




Corvallis - Willamette Park - START
Junction US 20 / Woods Creek Road
Knights of Pythias Cabin Checkpoint (CP)
Sugarbowl Road / County 618 / FS 30 CP
Harlan CP + Repairs & EMS
Junction County 618 / FS 3109
Junction FS 3109 / FS 1000 (CP)
Bohannan Ranch CP + Repairs & EMS
Junction FS 1000 / FS 31 (CP)
Junction FS 31 / FS 50 (CP)
Junction FS 50 / County 702 (CP)
County 702 / Bayview (CP)
US 101 - Alsea Bay Bridge
Siuslaw National Forest Ranger Station - Waldport
Governor Patterson State Park
Beachside State Park
SNF Tillicum Beach Campground - FINISH



Route, distances and elevations are approximate. Access is subject to approval by private landowners including Starker Forests, Inc. and the Plum Creek Timber Company. Georgia-Pacific Corporation's Timber Company completed its merger with the Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber Company on Oct. 8, 2001. Plum Creek is now the largest private timberland owner in the United States with more than 7.8 million acres of timberlands in 19 states. This merger affects the "South Tract" and other lands along the proposed c2seaTRAIL between Harlan and Toledo. The company owns approximately 287,000 acres of forest lands in Oregon.

Marys Peak
At 4,097 feet, Marys Peak is the tallest of
Oregon's Coast Mountains.

Note: This description of Marys Peak is adapted from the Siuslaw National Forest publications "Marys Peak Auto Tour" and "Marys Peak Recreation."

Roadside Geology of Oregon
by David Alt and Donald Hyndman 
Mountain Press Publishing Company, Inc.,
ISBN 0-87842-063-0
Item No. CQ203 (paperback) $16.00
284 pages - 6 x 9 inches 1978
Indexed and illustrated with maps, photographs and drawings. 

Until about 200 million years ago, the western margin of North America lay to the east, along the present Idaho border, and a broad coastal plain spread westward into Oregon. 
The rest of the state was ocean floor. Then the continent began moving slowly westward away from Europe and the floor of the Pacific Ocean began sliding beneath the western 
edge. That is what created Oregon, and this book tells how it happened.
USGS Geologic Map of Oregon (1969)

Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries

Elk trapped by the Bitterroot Fire, Montana, August 6, 2000.  Photo by John McColgan.  Oregon's Great Forest Fire of 1845 was the biggest in U.S. history, burning 1.5 million acres in the Coast Range.

The Great Forest
Fire of 1845

The biggest floods the world has ever seen inundated the Willamette Valley during the Ice Age, isolating the summit of Marys Peak repeatedly between 17,000 and 13,000 years ago. 

Hyperlink to Ice Age Floods Institute 
at the University of Idaho.

The Great
Ice Age Floods

Learn more about one of the most amazing aspects of Oregon's natural history from Oregon Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory.

Marys Peak Road is closed to public vehicle access at Milepost 5.5 from December 1st until April 1st, or until the road is snow free. Posted trails are open to mountain bike use from May 1st until October 1st.

Hyperlink to U.S. Forest Service NW Forest Pass home page and detailed Oregon information.

Marys Peak is one of seven Siuslaw National Forest sites participating in the Recreation Fee Demonstration Project. The fee for a daily vehicle pass is $5.00. The cost of an annual pass is $30. Permits are required at all trailheads, parking lots and recreation sites above milepost 5. Fee stations are located at Conners Camp, the Marys Peak Campground and at Observation Point.

All U.S. Forest Service Region 6 Parking Passes and Golden Eagle Passports are honored at Marys Peak.

Nature of the Northwest, a new information center operated by Oregon's Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and the U.S. Forest Service, offers online pass sales and comprehensive information and links to northwest parks, forests, recreation and more.

The Siuslaw National Forest is soliciting public input to develop a cultural history of Marys Peak.

Judge rules against
Forest Service on fees

PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 7, 2001 (AP) - A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that the U.S. Forest Service had no authority to collect users' fees at trailheads, pullouts and other sites around the Northwest from 1996 until November this year. Under the program, millions of dollars were raised to maintain trails and Forest Service buildings through the sale of Northwest Forest Pass permits, but it sparked opposition from those who say the fees priced people off public lands.

Mountain Bike! Oregon
A Guide to the Classic Trails
by Laurie and Chris Leman

Majestic Oregon offers mountain bikers a stunning array of landscapes to explore. From sparkling snowfields and glaciers to sunset-colored deserts, and from rolling beach dunes to charming agricultural valleys, Oregon offers mountain bikers nearly unlimited diversity. And with so much to discover, you'll want to have the inside scoop on Oregon's trails. Mountain Bike! Oregon will help you explore the state's incredible wilderness while you discover its most unforgettable rides. This guide provides detailed information on almost 100 of the best rides in the state, including tours through the Cascades, Alvord Desert, Hells Canyon, and the popular community of Sisters, near Bend. From challenging single-track on rugged mountainsides to leisurely tours of forested valleys, if it's good riding, it's profiled here. Each route profile features a thorough ride description, a detailed trail map, helpful sources of information, proximity of important services, valuable commentary on elevation changes and possible hazards, a rescue index and vivid descriptions of the native flora and fauna.

432 pages, 6 x 9 inches
94 rides + maps + photos + index

Price: $15.95
ISBN 0-89732-281-9
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press offers thumbnail descriptions and maps for more than 20,000 trails, including 504 Oregon hikes and 212 mountain bike rides selected from these and other guidebooks.

Burnt Timber Mountain

Marys Peak

McDonald Forest: Dan's & Horse Trails

McDonald Forest: McCulloch Peak

McDonald Forest: Vineyard Mountain

Kissing the Trail: Northwest & Central Oregon

by John Zilly 
With this new guide, John Zilly tracks down trails in prime destinations such as Bend, Eugene, Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge, the coast, and metro Portland. More than 75 trails are described, featuring mileage and ride time, easy-to-use maps and elevation profiles, clear directions, trail user density, exploring options, hazards, and where to find more information. A quick-reference chart indicating season and difficulty level and sharp, contemporary photos round out this comprehensive new mountain biking guide.

6 x 9 paperback, 246 pages,
illustrated with maps and photographs

Price: $16.95
ISBN: 1-57061-211-0
Publisher: Sasquatch Books

Mountain Bike America: OREGON
by Lizann Dunegan

Featuring more than 60 of the state's greatest mountain bike rides, this one-of-a-kind guide to the scenic state of Oregon takes you from the sculpted beaches and charming seaside towns of the Oregon Coast to sagebrush plains, high deserts, and the depths of Hells Canyon. Ride atop glacier-capped mountains, past cascading waterfalls, and around deep calderas. Mountain Bike Oregon guides you through this land of volcanoes, giving you a most unique look into its history, its culture, and its incomparable beauty. This guide features GPS-Quality, digitally-designed relief maps detailing each ride. Helpful ride locator maps get you to the ride without getting lost. Accurate route profiles show the ups and downs of each ride. Fascinating 3-D surface maps with dramatic views of the surrounding terrain. In-depth trail descriptions with difficulty ratings, schedules and detailed route directions; plus local attractions, eateries, and more. (6 x 9 inches, 256 pages, maps, charts, b&w photos)

Price: $15.95
ISBN: 1-882997-10-7
Publisher: Beachway Press

Mountain Biking Oregon
by Mark Wigg 

Families and hardcore bikers alike will enjoy this comprehensive guide to the entire state. With more than 50 ride descriptions there is something for everyone, including many newly-constructed and recently opened trails, such as the Klamath Falls to Bly Rails-to-Trails route and the Historic Columbia River Highway. Illustrated with maps and photographs. Index. 224 pages.

Price: $12.95
ISBN: 1-56044-671-4
Publisher: Falcon Publishing

McDonald Forest: Calloway Creek to Cap House Loop

100 Hikes / Travel Guide:
Oregon Coast & Coast Range
by William L. Sullivan
Paperback - 240 pages (January 1996) 
Dimensions (in inches): 0.63 x 8.49 x 5.54

Price: $14.95
ISBN: 0-96181-523-X
Publisher: Navillus Press

Alsea Falls

Drift Creek North

Drift Creek South

Marys Peak

McDonald Forest

These guides are available at the Corvallis Public Library and at
many book and sports specialty stores. Select any cover and link to the publisher's web site for more details and ordering information.

The Great Outdoor Recreation Pages offer more Oregon outdoor information.

Riders rate Oregon mountain bike trails at

  At 4,097 feet, Marys Peak is the highest of Oregon's Coast Mountains. The summit is hidden by clouds.
Marys Peak © William L. Sullivan from
and his 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range.

Marys Peak Auto Tour

At 4,097 feet, Marys Peak is considered the "Queen" of the Coast Range. It is the highest mountain in the Coast Range which extends from Washington to Southern Oregon. More than 75,000 people visit every year.

But 60 million years ago it was part of the Pacific Ocean seafloor formed by extensive flows of basalt in volcanic eruptions much like the ones that continue off the Oregon coast today. Layers of sandstone and mudstone were deposited in the deep sea and the mass slowly moved eastward and upward to become the western coast of the continent.

Millions of years of weathering and erosion smoothed the mountains, rounding them to their present form and making them ready for the region's earliest inhabitants. Descendents of the Kalapuya Indians blame the trickster god Coyote for damming the Willamette River and flooding everything but the summit of Marys Peak, preserving the unusual alpine wildflowers and and other flora that puzzle biologists to this day.

Geologists say advancing Ice Age glaciers created Glacial Lake Missoula on the Idaho-Montana border and a succession of as many as 40 monstrous floods that stripped eastern Washington of its topsoil and deposited it in layers as much as 100 feet thick on the floor of the Willamette Valley.

When the flood reached Portland, a wall of water more than 400 feet high roared down the Columbia traveling between 80 and 90 miles per hour. The flood slowed when it spread out over the broad Willamette Valley and lost energy, but it was powerful enough to deposit house-sized granite boulders from Montana near Salem and strong enough to make Eugene lakefront property.

Mile 0.0 - Hwy. 34 and Marys Peak Road: Your auto tour is 9.4 miles long. A round trip will take about two hours. As you travel you will see lettered signposts along the road where stops will feature rushing creeks, dense forests or panoramic views. Awaiting you at the top is a fantastic view of the Willamette Valley, and, on a clear day, the Pacific Ocean and the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Range.

Mile 3.1 - Parking: This parking area gives an excellent view of the Oregon Coast Range and the Alsea Valley. The Coast Range differs in origin from the Cascade Range. The Cascades are volcanic in origin and were formed about 50 million years ago. The Coast Range emerged from the sea about 10 million years later. At that time a massive collision between the sea floor and the western edge of the North American continental shelf pushed and folded the ocean floor sediments onto the continental shelf, uplifting the Coast Range.

While this took place, some ocean sediment and intermixed lava was forced down toward the earth's core, causing the rocks to melt. Some of this molten lava was pushed back up and was forced into parallel sediment layers, forming "sills." This is significant because the top 1,000 feet of Marys Peak is a hard, erosion-resistant sill. The peak was once higher, but the softer sedimentary rocks above the sill eroded away, leaving the hard cap we see today.

Other mountains of sediment were cut and eroded by streams like the Alsea River, visible in the green valley below. The Alsea flows west through the Coast Range and empties into the Pacific Ocean at Waldport.

Imagine the enormous forces necessary to lift these mountains. Evidence of their birth is seen in the tnrough-cut across the road from you. Look for the hexagonal-shaped rocks. These rocks are actually long, thin pillars, buried in the hill. This formation is called columnar basalt. The distinctive shape was created by the slow cooling and cracking of lava. This columnar basalt was formed more than 5,000 feet below the ocean surface. The tremendous lifting forces which helped create the Oregon Coast Range elevated the rock to its present position.

Mile 3.7 - Rock Flowers: Pull off the road and stop on the right hand side of the through-cut. Look at the left road cutbank. At the previous stop you saw the shape lava forms when it cools slowly. Now, you can see lava that cooled quickly. Have you located the "rock flowers?" They are scattered throughout the back, some small, others larger. This lava was extruded into the ocean as a viscous "pasty mass" similar to thick, cold molasses. As it oozed into the cold water it cooled rapidly, cracking to form the "petals" you see today.

Many Starker Forests roads are open to Oregon cyclists.
Many Starker Forests roads are open to Oregon cyclists.

Mile 5.5 - Corvallis Watershed: Turn right onto the narrow road and park at the overview. Thirsty? You are now overlooking much of the 8,910-acre Corvallis Watershed. It was established in the 1920s when the Forest Service and the City of Corvallis entered into an agreement which provides for the use of all forest resources in the watershed, but identifies its primary use as water production. Although they are not visible from this viewpoint, four creeks and a 65-foot-high dam holding four million gallons of water provide clean water to the residents of Philomath and Corvallis.

Virgin forests once grew here. In 1949, severe winter storms blew down large stands of Douglas fir. Fearing that a forest fire, fueled by the downed trees, would destroy the watershed, the city and the Forest Service built access roads and salvaged the trees. Since then, both timber harvest and water protection have occurred in the watershed.

The openings you see in the forest are evidence of past harvest areas. Seedlings which were planted soon after the initial logging are now tall, young trees. The next stop is 1.3 miles ahead. Progressing upward, you will enter the Marys Peak Scenic Botanical Area. It recognizes the unique scenic and botanical values of Marys Peak and protects and perpetuates those values.

Mile 6.8 - Parker Creek: With as much as 100 inches of rain a year, creeks like Parker Creek can swell quickly. Water splashing over the bedrock above you finds its way to the Alsea River. This water, a valuable resource, could be very destructive to this road is not handled correctly. You are standing on a catch basin designed to contain the maximum flow of Parker Creek. Dropping from 80 feet above you, Parker Creek flows into the catch basin, passes through a screen which catches debris, and passes under the pavement through a large steel culvert, draining onto the pile of rocks below. This is just one means of moving water to protect roads.

Mile 7.7 - Western Viewpoint: You have now climbed 2,200 feet from the Alsea Highway to an elevation of 3,500 feet. The elevation affects many things, including the vegetation. To the right of this viewpoint the first stand of Noble fir begins. The elevation created conditions which encourage Noble fir to grow here. You can distinguish the Noble fir from other trees by its blue-green needle cast, more rigid appearing branches and the upright cones that are visible in late summer and early fall. These cones are clustered near the top of the tree, but by November they disintegrate and spread their seeds.

Mile 8.4 - Marys Peak Meadow: At 4,000 feet above sea level, this small meadow is subjected to severe growing conditions. Facing southwest, it receives the full impact of prevailing westrly winds, and frequently endures freezing temperatures. The extreme climate and high elevation have encouraged a wide variety of plants to grow. During different months the meadow becomes a huge ecological collage. Plants normally found in dry, eastern Oregon, in the Upper Cascade Range, and on the valley floor intermix to form a colorful mosaic for visitors to enjoy.

Forming a backdrop to the meadow is the Noble fir, which normally inhabits the high subalpine zone of the Cascade Range. Motorized vehicles are not allowed to drive in this meadow because of its shallow. moist and extremely fragile soils. It could easily be scarred for many years by careless vehicle use. About half a mile ahead you'll see evidence of strong wind storms, particularly the infamous 1962 Columbus Day storm. Hundreds of trees, blown over by the hurricane-force winds, were later salvaged, leaving behind the open area near thee former Marys Peak Campground. Another storm, the "Friday the 13th" storm of November 1981, destroyed most of the campground. A new campground was built nearby in a safe site, and the area around the old campground was closed to public entry because of the hazard.

On a clear day, the summit of Marys Peak is the Top of the World.  Photo by Robert Ashworth.  Hyperlink to Cycling Marys Peak Trails.
The summit of Marys Peak is Oregon's "Top of the World."

Mile 9.4 - Jewels of the Cascades: The Observation Point Parking Lot is the last stop of the auto tour. To thoroughly enjoy the view, walk beyond the road gate about 30 feet to the lookout where seven major peaks of the Cascades are visible. From north to south they are: Mt. Hood (11,240 ft.), Mt. Jefferson (10,497 ft.), Three Finger Jack (7,841 ft.), Mt. Washington (7,794 ft.) and the Three Sisters (North: 10,085 ft., Middle: 10,047 ft., and South: 10,358 ft.). On exceptionally clear days, the view can include the Pacific Ocean and Washington's Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft.) and even Mt. Thielsen (9,182 ft.) near Crater Lake.