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McKenzie Bridge: Blue Pool and beyond 

The Tamolitch Blue Pool near Sahalie Falls. The river only flows over the falls a few times a year; the rest of the time the water emerges from the rocks in the basin of the waterfall pool.
  • The Tamolitch Blue Pool near Sahalie Falls. The river only flows over the falls a few times a year; the rest of the time the water emerges from the rocks in the basin of the waterfall pool.

I first heard about McKenzie Bridge when I dated someone from there. He didn't think I knew it, which maybe I didn't, but living in Oregon since I was 11, I'd definitely driven through. For me and other Bendites, heading west often involves an Oregon Ducks football game in Eugene—meaning passing through the tiny towns along the way may not always prompt a stop. Still, McKenzie Bridge, located 75 miles from Bend, calls for further exploration. Close to Belknap Hot Springs, the McKenzie River and the Tamolitch Pool—also called the Blue Pool—the reasons to stay in McKenzie Bridge add up quickly.

Who This Trip is For:

Ideal for weekend adventurers seeking a home base. Family friendly and perfect for the outdoor explorer set.

Where to Stay:

While the options to stay directly in McKenzie Bridge may be in low quantity, the surrounding area includes a variety of cabins and BnBs. I recommend Loloma Lodge, which has undergone new ownership since my stay. The quiet lodge includes four riverfront cabins, a log cabin and a classic log lodge. The bright cabins feature large windows that allow in tons of natural light, and you can't beat their riverfront location. In the center of the Loloma Lodge property you'll find a beautiful, well-tended garden—perfect for reading and relaxing.

What to Do:

A brief eight-minute drive from McKenzie Bridge is the relaxing haven that is Belknap Hot Springs. Unlike many other hot springs in Oregon, the water from the springs is piped into a pool. From there, explore the beautiful gardens and great hiking. Visit Koosah Falls and Sahalie Falls, both located northeast of McKenzie Bridge on Highway 126. Hike to the stunning blue waters of the Tamolitch Pool. While you're in the area, take advantage of the McKenzie River itself with a rafting trip from High Country Expeditions.

Where to Eat:

Over the years, the McKenzie General Store in McKenzie Bridge has upped its game. In addition to finding the essentials for any meal you want to cook, you'll also find a food truck/grill with fresh, natural and organic foods as well as beer and wine. The store added a back patio dining area with twinkling lights, a fire pit and picnic tables—a lovely riverside gathering spot along the McKenzie River. The General Store also features weekly live music and occasional movie nights. Try the locally sourced Lookout Pulled Pork Sandwich, featuring a house-made marionberry and bourbon BBQ sauce. Also enjoy the NW Salmon Tacos, made from fresh-caught, wild salmon.

Population: Unincorporated

TIME from Bend: 1 hr. 40 min.

click to enlarge Sahalie Falls
  • Sahalie Falls

Fun Facts:

The National Register of Historic Places included the Log Cabin Inn in McKenzie Bridge until it was destroyed by fire in 2006.

The resort at Belknap Hot Springs has been open to the public since the 1870s, except for a period of time between 1968-1978.

Belknap Hot Springs is classified as having a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, according to the Koppen Climate Classification system.

The area is also home to the Benedict Lodge — a religious retreat and church formed for the Benedictine monks in 1940.

Sahalie Falls can be spotted in Disney's movie, "Homeward Bound."

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