History Hike Explore Old Wagon Roads

  A history hike will explore long-abandoned wagon roads, such as the one shown in this photo, in the Topsy Grade area of the Klamath River canyon. (Klamath County Museum)

A history hike will explore long-abandoned wagon roads, such as the one shown in this photo, in the Topsy Grade area of the Klamath River canyon. (Klamath County Museum)

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – A guided history hike in the Klamath River Canyon on Oct. 28 will explore long-abandoned wagon roads that preceded the relatively modern Topsy Grade road.

The hike, rated as moderate to difficult, is cosponsored by the Klamath County Museum, the Bureau of Land Management Klamath Falls Resource Area, and the Klamath River Four Wheel Drive Association.

The all-day event is free, but space is limited and preregistration is required. The hike is offered in conjunction with Archaeology Month, which is being observed with similar activities across the country.

“We’ll be tracing a pair of wagon roads built in the 1870s and 1880s that were abandoned when the final Topsy Grade road was constructed in 1890,” said museum manager Todd Kepple. “The cuts and fills they made some 130 years ago are still holding up pretty well, probably because they never saw an automobile.”

Laird Naylor, archaeologist for the BLM, said the old roads shed light on how pioneer settlers met challenges of their day.

“These roads clearly show people using the technology of their time to get wagons across the rough mountainside, using hand tools and stacking rocks,” Naylor said. “Archaeological evidence also helps to clear up the question of which road is the oldest.”

Participants will have the choice of two hike options. The hike will begin at the rim of the Klamath River Canyon, and descend a distance of about 2 miles on an old wagon road. Hikers will then have the option of being transported by four-wheel-drive vehicles back to the top.

Another option is to hike back up to the rim on a different wagon road that offers more scenery and archaeological features. The total hiking distance for the second option will be close to 4.5 miles.

Both of the hike segments will offer numerous challenges, including thick brush and uneven ground. Participants should pack a lunch, drinking water and gear appropriate for varying weather conditions.

The hike group will meet in Dorris, Participants should be prepared to drive their own vehicles for several miles over primitive roads to the hike starting point.

“These long-forgotten roads offered the first reliable year-round access to the Upper Klamath Basin as it was being settled by European-Americans,” Kepple said. “These are truly remarkable archaeological resources that very few people have seen in the past century. We’re grateful to Keno resident Jack “Rip” Wegner for bringing these old roads to our attention.”

For more information or to register for the hike, contact the Klamath County Museum, 1451 Main St. in Klamath Falls, at (541) 882-1000. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.