The Cascade Lakes Highway is expected to be open before Memorial Day.
The annual effort to clear Century Drive from winter snow is taking longer than usual due to this year’s heavy snowpack.
Plows and snowblowers are working from both ends of the Cascade Lakes Highway. They clear about a mile per day and will likely meet somewhere in the middle near Sparks Lake early next week.
“It’s deep. It’s 5- to 7-feet. It may be even deeper at Devil’s Lake,” said Chris Doty, Deschutes County Road Department Director. “It seems to be going smooth. A lot of times trees blow down over the winter. That slows down our progress when we have remove vegetation to keep it out of the machinery.”
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It takes hundreds of staff hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear the Cascade Lakes and Paulina Lakes highways each year.
The roads are plowed because visitation to the high lakes, resorts, campgrounds and trailheads is a significant contributor to Deschutes County’s economy.
“We’ve had more snow this year than we’ve had in the last couple,” said Doug Sweider from the controls of loader with a snowblower attached to the front end. “It’s taken a little bit more time but we’ll get it done.”
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There’s going to be a period of time when there’s just snow banks along the side of the road, with no place to pull off.
“The melt happens pretty fast. A few days and it goes down substantially. We’ve got some nice weather coming up this weekend and in the extended forecast. That’s certainly going to help take the last couple inches of snow and ice off the road after we’ve taken 5-7 feet off the road,” Doty said.
At Dutchman Flat, there’s still six feet of snow. Farther in the snow is deeper in places. The plows are making good progress.
The prediction is the Cascade Lakes Highway will open the week of May 22. The Paulina Lake Highway may open before then.
Visit the Deschutes County Road Department website for updates.