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Oregon Route 78


 
Connecting southeast Oregon with the neighboring states of Idaho and Nevada is Oregon Route 78 (also known as Steens Highway, the Oregon State Highway 442). Running some 91 miles from US 95 in Malheur County, Oregon to US 20 and US 395 in Burns, Oregon, OR 78 traverses the high desert landscape of the Alvord Desert, over some hills near Steens Mountain and through farmland as it makes its way from southeast to northwest. OR 78 is a mostly quiet drive and perfect for those who enjoy driving around in wide open spaces. OR 78 also makes up part of the East Steens Tour Route, which leads you through some of the prettiest countryside in southeast Oregon.

I took a journey on OR 78 from east to west. This is in a part of a country where you may be driving close to 100 miles between settlements, and even further between gas stations. So sit back and enjoy this virtual tour of OR 78.


Starting on OR 78 westbound from US 95, you are quickly reminded that you've entered open rangeland. Fortunately, I did not encounter any livestock on the road during my drive.

OR 78 crosses the line between the Mountain Time Zone and the Pacific Time Zone in Malheur County, soon after the junction with US 95.

Much of the eastern portion of OR 78 traverses through high desert terrain, only broken up by the ribbon of asphalt that makes up OR 78.

But eventually, we start encountering hills.

OR 78 winds through and around the hills. The hills are related to Steens Mountain, one of the largest fault block mountains in the Great Basin.

Take a left onto Folly Farm Road to head to Alvord Hot Springs, which is an attraction if you enjoy soaking in a hot spring. Turning left will also take you to Fields, Oregon and Denio, Nevada, where you would connect with NV 292 and NV 140. This is also where the East Steens Tour Route joins OR 78.

A look to my left gives me a view of the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Time to climb those hills.

And make our way around more hills.

The landscape is scenic, and there's even the occasional tree or bush.

Entering Harney County, Oregon.

I really liked this photo. But this also means that around the bend, we start our descent into the valley below.

I can see for miles and miles...

OR 78 starts to get a bit busier as we head west. Soon, we will enter the communities of New Princeton and Crane, which are supported by agricultural activities and the nearby Malheur Lake.

Starting to see fields and irrigation equipment. I drove OR 78 in the middle of November, so the growing season may have already come and passed.

Junction with Lava Bed Road in New Princeton, Oregon.

The towns are starting to get closer and we are already more than halfway to Burns from US 95.

Hay fields seem to rule the roost between New Princeton and Crane.

Crane, Oregon is just to our right. Once a more thriving community, a number of devastating fires stunted the community's growth. However, Crane is a reason why OR 78 exists. The Oregon state highway department began building a gravel road that later became Oregon Highway 78, into Burns in 1917, and its completion in about 1920 greatly improved travel conditions for those in the southern end of Harney county.

A house along OR 78 in Lawen, Oregon. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a store here once upon a time.

Approaching the junction with OR 205 as we enter Burns. OR 205 goes down to Frenchglen, about 60 miles to the south. Frenchglen is home to the Frenchglen Hotel State Historic Site.

Approaching the junction with US 20 and US 395 in Burns, the county seat of Harney County.

US 20 and US 395 will take you to places like Lakeview, Bend, John Day and Vale, all of which are a considerable distance away.

And here, our journey on OR 78 comes to a close.



How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Corco Highways - Oregon Route 78, OR 205 to US-95
Mile by Mile - Oregon State #78 Highway Guide
Oregon Department of Transportation - The East Steens Tour Route

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