Stop for travelers on the Santiam Wagon Road
Fish Lake is located west of Santiam Pass and just west of current Highway 126. It is an intermittent lake that usually is full of water in the spring and early summer but becomes a lush grassland in the late summer and early fall. It is situated along the old Santiam Wagon Road.
The Santiam Wagon Road (Willamette Valley Cascade Mountain Wagon Road) was constructed from Sweet Home to Camp Polk as a passageway to Central Oregon and beyond from the Willamette Valley. The road was completed to Fish Lake in 1867.
The company constructing the road was given road grants and could charge a toll for use of the road. A roadhouse was built at Fish Lake for travelers to stay on the lengthy journey over the Cascade Mountains. The wayside provided a place to rest and to pasture horses and livestock.
The toll road was completed to the Deschutes River in 1868. Toll stations were at Mountain House on the west and at Cache Creek on the east.
The Fish Lake roadhouse soon became the most popular stop on the wagon road. Within a short time, the company had built barns, corrals, a blacksmith shop, a store, a hotel, cabins and tent sites to serve travelers. Even a primitive saloon was built.
Over the years, thousands of people, livestock and tons of freight traveled over the road by Fish Lake. Travelers could get a meal and lodging on the strenuous journey. Freighters took the time to feed their stock. The road was open for travel after spring snow melt until the first major snowstorm of the season. The caretaker at the roadhouse closed the station in the fall and did not return until the spring.
The route continued to be used up through early automobile traffic began around 1907. In 1907, the road company leased the facilities to others. By the mid-1920s traffic over the Santiam Wagon road was significantly reduced.
The Forest Service established a Remount Station at the site for forest work in 1905. Once the Santiam Highway was constructed in 1937, use of the Fish Lake roadhouse ceased.
Today, the roadhouse site along with the Remount Station is a national historical site. It is well worth a short walk from the Fish Lake picnic area to the old station. Many old buildings are still preserved at the site.
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