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A father leaving from Olene closes the gate along the OC&E trail. Photo by Lee Juillerat

Biking the unpaved OC&E Woods Line State Trail

There's a lot to see for mountain bikers on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, Oregon's longest linear state park.

On a recent ride along an unpaved section of the 100-mile trail, we pedaled past pastoral fields and, whoops, narrowly missed a slithery bull snake that was almost as long as the trail was wide.

We stopped to marvel at brilliantly colored thistles and watched skittery marmots, salamanders and “squeaks,” ground squirrels, play impromptu games of chicken and were nearly flattened underneath our tires.

The always welcome shade in Swede's Cut, where the OC&E slices through a canyon carved decades ago by crews that built the Oregon, California & Eastern, a once-upon-a-time logging railroad that operated between Klamath Falls and Bly.

Less welcome is the always nerve-wracking crossing of Highway 140, a place where a former railroad trestle allowed trains to pass overhead. It's a semi-blind crossing near a bend in the highway, where cars routinely zip past at 55 mph and faster. When the old bridge was demolished the Oregon Department of Transportation promised to replace it with a higher structure, one tall enough to allow tractor-trailer rigs to pass underneath. It's estimated a new bridge will cost upward of $800,000.

The rest of the ride is pure pleasure.

We rode our mountain bikes from Olene past Dairy, about 10 miles, before doubling back. On a paved trail, 20 miles isn't much, but on the unpaved, often uneven surface of the former rail line — it could use some grooming — it's more challenging.

The OC&E Woods Line was used to transport logs from the Bly, Sprague River and Sycan Marsh forests to mills in Klamath Falls from the early 1890s until 1990. When Weyerhauser Co. discontinued the rail service in 1990, it railbanked the right-of-way to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department for development of the OC&E Woods Line State Trail. The combined trail from OC&E Klamath Falls to Bly and the Woods Line from Beatty to the Sycan Marsh covers more than 100 miles.

While the 7-plus-mile paved section from Washburn Way to Olene is heavily used, traffic on the other sections — bikers, equestrians, walkers and winter-time cross country skiers — of the other 93-plus miles of unpaved former rail line is limited. That could change if plans by Oregon State Parks, with support from the Rails-to-Trails group, to pave the trail from Olene to the Highway 140 crossing materialize.

I previously biked from Klamath Falls to Bly in a very long day, and other times pedaled or, during snowy winters, skied most sections of the OC&E. Favorites include the Switchbacks-Devil's Garden area to the community of Sprague River, Beatty toward Bly along the bubbly Sprague River, and, on the Woods Line, Horse Glade toward the Sycan Marsh, at least as far as the 400-foot long, 50-foot high Merritt Creek Trestle.

Mountain bikers wanting to know more about the OC&E Woods Line and other Klamath Basin routes, including the still-developing Spence Mountain Trail, dazzling-view plentiful Klamath Ridgeview Trail and the spaghetti-like network in Moore Park, can do so through Ride Klamath Ride.

Maps available through Discover Klamath — by calling its Klamath Falls office at 541-882-1501 or toll-free at 800-445-6728, or the website at www.rideklamathride.com — offer basic details and elevation profiles. Each tear-off map includes seven routes, with one map dedicated for mountain bikes and another for road bikes. The maps also include information on places for food and water, picnic areas and camping.

Along with the OC&E Woods Line, the map's mountain bike routes include the Ridgeview Trail, network of Moore Park trails, High Lakes Trail between Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake, Brown Mountain Trail, Collier Park to Kimball Park “gravel grinder” and developing Spence Mountain trails.

The road bike map includes Hamaker Out and Back, OC&E Trail Out and Back, Triple Loop Running Y Ranch, Lake of the Woods Loop, Westside Loop, Airport Loop and Crater Lake Loop.

 

 

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