The Klondike observing site

finalized April 2006

The Klondike site in April '03. If you darken the image,
the wind turbines become visible on the center horizon.

A few years back I picked up a BLM map of north-central Oregon and sought out 'gravel pit's and 'rock quarry's, presuming them to be reasonably public. The site, just north of a few buildings labeled "Klondike" on the Oregon Atlas maps, was my second stop that day and appeared promising. I have viewed from here on several occasions and always left happy. The first visit was the worst, with a steady west wind; considering that my return trip to Portland was through driving rains in the gorge to overcast skies in town, it was still very good in my book!

This observing site is an easy drive from Portland and is about seven miles west of Wasco, south of Rufus and Interstate 84. It has several things going for it in my judgement; these include:

Other potential positives are its proximity to Wasco and its [limited] amenities, and Biggs (fuel, restrooms, junk food, 24-hour restaurant!). On the down side, it has proven to be windy on days with a west wind in the gorge. Its eleveation is about 1400 feet, so it's low compared to most summer sites but just right for off-season visits.


Travel east on Interstate 84 through the Dalles. Exit at Biggs [exit 104] and go south on US 97 after stocking up on goodies. Two junctions are available to reach Wasco: a cryptic sign at around 7 miles leads left then south, or an exit on Oregon 208 a mile or so further works even better. This second junction meets the first road in the center of town. The road to the airport continues east where the roads meet. Follow the airport road for 4+ miles until it ends at a T-junction, where you go left. One mile further, turn right on unpaved Dehler Lane. About 1.5 miles ahead an opening appears to the right; it's marked as a gravel pit on my map, but it's just an open area that extends a hunderd yards or so south. It always comes as a surprise when the site appears, as the entire area is nothing but farmland - but trust me, the site will appear!

Comparing this site to the reasonably-nearby site at Tygh Ridge:

I believe the most traffic I have seen was two cars on Dehler Lane on one night. The site has the added benefit of entry from the north, so any cars traveling on that road are generally not in the most troublesome direction. It also sits squarely in agricultural fields, and I suspect that Sherman County won't be seilling this off for development in the near future. The potential bad news: last time I was there I did see evidence that is occasionally used as target-practice area for beer-can hunters, so as usual, it's best not to visit alone.

The 2-meter telescope had an early test-run at Klondike..
2003 Updates
Sherman County now has a use for that empty space: wind energy! A wind farm has taken up residence a few miles from this site, and flashing beacons warn air traffic to avoid the swirling blades. Just goes to show that one person's definition of non-polluting energy may not apply to others. It is still a good site, though - the wind turbines as of May 03 are not visible from the observing area. Ominously, however, the current setup is listed as "Klondike Phase I" - which suggests that more will appear in the future. As a fan of renewable energy and astronomy, I see value in both efforts, and hopefully the site will not be harmed by future projects. I have learned that Phase II will be south of the current turbines, so in the near term the site is not at risk.

Interesting news from Klondike - it turns out to be a privately-owned spot! Several observers were there in late October and encountered family members who were investigating nearby gunshots. Thankfully, the owner is happy to share the spot with our group. It's a relief to know this, since all this time I had mistakenly presumed it to be a public spot owing to its designation on a BLM map. Live and learn!

Update from an RCA member..

Sent: Sunday, April 02, 2006 4:45 PM
On a very sad note -

I swung by the Klondike observing site, just to see what was going on there. The new series of wind towers (and they are really, really tall) tromp right through the observing field. Where the grassy place used to be is now an access road. The towers march south for several miles with the conga line starting four towers north of the observing field.

Time to retire the site with honors