By Brittany Arnold for the News Review.

On Sept. 18, after a seven-year process, the 66-mile stretch from Oakland to Reedsport was officially named the first and only scenic byway running from Interstate 5 to the coast’s Highway 101.

The Umpqua River Scenic Byway designation took time and support from the community. Chairman Tom Llewellyn was motivated to do so after driving it every day.

“This is really a beautiful drive,” says Llewellyn.

After rounding up community members from all over, including Oakland Mayor Bette Keehley, Llewellyn went to state officials. Having more scenic byways than any other state, Oregon is serious about its terms and conditions for granting a road that distinction.

The procedure involved applications, evaluations, plans, presentations, and commission meetings, each consuming months in between. Llewellyn says since he was retired, he had plenty of time.

“My role was herding people down the road,” says Llewellyn. “We became a really friendly, close-knit group,” he says of the many involved in helping the byway dream became a reality.

The Umpqua River Scenic Byway was approved in April 2008 after receiving financial assistance from the cities of Sutherlin and Elkton, Oakland Economic Development, Port of Umpqua in Reedsport, Reedsport-Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the Sutherlin Chamber of Commerce.

Llewellyn says the community is excited that it is now an official byway, and that area residents are receiving good feedback.

“We want to put this area on the map,” Llewellyn says.

Not to be confused with its sibling — the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, which runs from Gold Hill through Roseburg, Glide and along the North Umpqua River all the way to Crater Lake — the Umpqua River Scenic Byway curves through Oakland, Sutherlin, Elkton, Scottsburg and Reedsport.

Put the pair of byways together, however, by jogging from Oakland down to Roseburg and they create a scenic route that stretches from the Oregon Coast all the way to the Cascades.

The Umpqua River Scenic Byway takes off through historic downtown Oakland, where the streets are adorned with quaint stores, restaurants, and galleries, will lead you through the gateway to Highway 138, just past the city of Sutherlin.

The route borders green pastures, farms, towering trees, barns, animals, plenty of wine tasting rooms and the roaring Umpqua River, all of which line Highway 138 heading west.

Scenic visitors can stop and see the unique Rochester Covered Bridge, a bison farm and the Kellogg Grange as well as historic landmarks and viewing areas, before continuing on the byway to Elkton and the intersection with Highway 38.

Acclaimed as the Bass Capital of Oregon, the small town of Elkton is also common ground for avid fishermen of trout, salmon, steelhead and shad.

While the ample rainfall makes Elkton a wonderful home to many orchards, flowers, gardens, vineyards, feed crops and pastures, the sunny days make it a great spot to go biking, boating, hiking or visit the town’s Butterfly Pavilion.

After Elkton, drivers will pass through another small town, Scottsburg, which features the beautiful Scottsburg Park off Highway 38.

Scottsburg Park was the site of the Umpqua Scenic Byway dedication ceremony, which included speakers, history, geology, natural wonders and refreshments. Llewellyn says about 100 people showed, and “all had a good time.”

Twisting past Scottsburg, the road comes to signs for Loon Lake. Take a detour and visit the resort area featuring waterfalls, pools, camping, picnicking, hunting, fishing, water sports, swimming, hiking, boat rentals, an RV park, sandy beaches, and more scenic drives surrounding the Loon Lake Lodge.

The Umpqua Scenic Byway reaches its climax of beauty and nature as it enters the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area about 3 miles east of Reedsport. This wildlife management area provides clear views of the elk herds found year-round. About 1,040 acres are divided between pasture, woodland and wetlands, the area also attracts species of beavers, birds and ducks.

The town of Reedsport and Highway 101 mark the end of the Umpqua River Scenic Byway. Reedsport is in the middle of the 40-mile Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area, has more than 17 lakes, and is just four miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Llewellyn says that process was “a real fun thing” that created many friendships, a closer community, and the ability for visitors to take part in the gorgeous scenery that decorates the winding drive.

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