By Hilary Corrigan

The Bulletin

The new Cascade Lakes Welcome Station has served more than 15,000 visitors following its first summer season.

“It’s functioned just like we had hoped,” said Kevin Larkin, district ranger for Deschutes National Forest’s Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District.

The approximately 2,080-square-foot, $1.7 million center opened in March in time for spring break, then kept limited hours until May when it opened daily. Earlier this month, the center cut back to a schedule of Thursday to Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center will scale back again Oct. 3 to a schedule of Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., then will close for the season Nov. 28.

The facility offers visitors a chance to get information and details on rules and regulations and to talk with people who know the area and can offer tips, along with alternative trails to avoid crowds, for instance.

It also gives visitors a place to get maps, guidebooks and any necessary permits and passes and to fill water bottles. While forest station offices and district ranger stations can also provide information and passes, the new station is on the way to many of the sites visitors aim to explore. Located on Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, the center hosts parking for popular trails like the Phil’s and Wanoga mountain bike trail systems.

Deschutes National Forest Spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean described the center’s first season as successful, noting activity there increased as the summer went on. Nelson-Dean expects the center to host more special events and talks in the future.

“It seemed like people enjoyed those small, one-day events,” she said.

The welcome station also has an interactive touch-screen kiosk with information the U.S. Forest Service aims to turn into a mobile app by spring so people can easily access details on campground rules, for instance.

Part of the overall project is continuing. A paved path that will connect the existing Haul Road Trail to the welcome station remains under construction into the spring. The new Rim Rock Trailhead, meant to accommodate 40 vehicles, will be built this fall at what’s known as the Good Dog Trailhead area. That’s where a tunnel will cross under the Cascade Lakes Highway to let trail users avoid crossing the road. An existing tunnel farther up the highway, closer to the welcome station and Seventh Mountain Resort, is being expanded for pedestrians, and that work will be completed this fall.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,