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US 395, Part 19: "US 20 to US 20" (Harney County and Burns)

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Harney county, which we entered in the last Part, is only marginally less uninhabited than Lake county at 7,609 [2000]. It was named for local hero Brig. Gen. William S. Harney who fought in the Black Hawk, Mexican and Civil Wars, and formed from the southernmost two-thirds of Grant county to the north (which we will see in the next Part) in 1889. A contentious internal battle between the original seat, Harney (established 1874), and Burns to the west finally led to the establishment of the county seat in Burns (3,064 [2000]) in 1890, named for Scottish poet Robert Burns by pioneer fan George McGowan and first settled in 1882 as Egan (named for Chief Egan, a prominent Paiute leader -- more about him when we get to Battle Mountain in Part 22). The new name was assigned in 1884. Primarily a logging and agricultural town, its fortunes and that of the county have waned with the closure of the local mill in the 1980s. This is a nice collection of anecdotes about the history of Harney county.

Grant county used to be Oregon's largest county, but thanks to the split, Harney is today. Interestingly, a fair bit of Harney county is actually in the hands of the federal government. Between the Malheur Wildlife Refuge (established 1908, now 159,872 acres), the Malheur River Indian Reservation, the National Forest lands and whatever the Bureau of Land Management has on its books, over three million acres of the county are national lands of some sort.

This section of US 395 is entirely co-routed along US 20 (which appears to be the legislative definition of the road based on milepost continuity) between Riley and Burns. US 20 is the longest highway in the United States, longer than any Interstate (Interstate 90, which we'll reach in Part 25, is the longest Interstate at "only" 3,020 miles). It was not always the longest; until 1964, US 6 (which we saw back in Part 5) stretched 3,652 miles across the country and was the clear winner until California chopped it down as part of the Great Renumbering. Not counting the portion through Yellowstone, which is National Park road and not maintained as a U.S. Numbered highway, modern US 20 runs between Newport, OR and Boston, MA for a total of 3,237 miles today. Nevertheless, because of the discontinuity introduced by the National Park, US 6 is still the USA's longest continuous highway even to the present era.

US 20 is the reason why Bend was listed as a control city on US 395 all the way back in Lakeview, by the way. If one takes US 20 west, it will pass through Bend on its way to Corvallis (and Portland by extension along I-5/old US 99) and the Oregon coast.

[OR 54 (old US 20), 1938.] Those of you who have been paying attention to the transcontinental routes we've crossed will have noticed we reached US 20 before US 30 (we won't meet US 30 until Part 22). For the virginal road dweebs in the audience, US highways are supposed to be numbered in ascending order from north to south, so therefore, US 30 should be south of US 20 (see the Conventions glossary for an explanation of the planned national grid). This anomaly was introduced in 1940 when the portion of US 20 west of the Park was added to the Federal highway network at the request of Oregon; as originally signed in 1926, US 20 ended at Yellowstone. For this to happen, US 20 and US 30 must cross at some point, and they do; US 20/US 26 and US 30 even today meet in Mountain Home, ID and travel together (now along I-84, which we'll see again in Part 23) to Boise, ID, split apart briefly with US 20/US 26 to the north through Boise, and then join again in Caldwell, ID only to have US 20/US 26 sneak off to the south. From then on, US 20 keeps south of US 30 until US 20's termination at US 101 on the Oregon coast in Newport.

This must also mean that US 395 predates US 20 in this region, and it does; what is signed as US 20 today is the former alignment of OR 54 during US 395's initial signage in Oregon. This is depicted on the map to the right. This stretch of old OR 54, and now US 20/US 395, is OH #7 (Central Oregon Hwy).


Back to the US 20 trailblazer we left at the end of Part 18.

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US 20 and US 20/US 395 separation. This is the end of OH #49 (Lakeview-Burns Hwy); we veer east as OH #7 (Central Oregon Hwy).

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Looking back at the distance signage on the SB alignment.

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Riley, the first gas in 90 miles, is right at the separation point. I stopped here to fill up when coming back into Burns for this photography session. This is about all there is.

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Distance signage leaving Riley. Ontario, near the Idaho state line, is listed for the benefit of US 20 travelers. Also note the use of relatively normal looking MUTCD signage here. This is the more modern sign standard in use on new ODOT deployments.

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A little evidence that the OH number/name system is still in use, on this 2005 construction brag sign. Some amount of resurfacing was being done on the road while I was traveling through the first time.

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Mile 105, the first milepost heading east.

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This is fairly typical for the rolling hills of this portion of the route.

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Mile 116, heading over the lip of the Harney Basin rim into the valley.

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If we look to our left, we'll see a little narrow road at intervals. This is the old alignment of US 20/US 395 to which the modern alignment was built in parallel. We'll look at a couple surprisingly well-preserved segments in a second. Where useable (though a lot of it isn't), it survives as frontage road.

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EB US 20/NB US 395.

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BLM horse conservation corral.

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Just a statue, not a horse.

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Mile 122.

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A closer look at one of the older alignment portions, with the modern alignment to our right.

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Old paint can be seen on the asphalt.

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Part of the reason for the abandonment appears to have been these substandard culverts.

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The heavy truck traffic would have made mince out of such crossings today. This one doesn't look too stable as it is.

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Glancing at the landscape out the driver's window.

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Mile 126.

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Fork 1: Old US 20/Old US 395

Another small section of realignment is much better preserved than the last one we looked at. This is a very short fork of single lane road, but I have proof for it being part of the route (at the end), and you'll also see why I think it deserves a "fork" marking. We turn right, and immediately left to parallel the highway.

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Looping around the main highway to the left. This is now mostly in use as a small private drive for the smattering of local residences.

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And here's the end, barely a quarter mile, with the payoff: a sign marking the drive as Old Hwy 20. Since it's signed, I think this qualifies.

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Fork 2: Modern US 20/US 395

In all its glory. Hey, I'm just trying to be thorough. If it marks it, I drive it.

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EB US 20/NB US 395 entering Hines. Hines is, at least loosely speaking, Burns' solitary suburb. Established originally as Herrick, a mill town, by Fred Herrick and his lumber company and named for him, Herrick sold out to Edward Hines in 1928 and the town took his name instead. Here is a Jervie Eastman 1941 photograph showing his former headquarters. Its estimated population is around 1,500. We change names to Oregon Ave here.

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Harney county does not hyphenate their county routes as Lake did, but they're a little cheap about using proper numbers.

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The first of a huge number of sign errors in Burns and Hines, and they all seem to be SB as far as I can tell. This sign states the road is OR 20 and OR 395, not US 20 and US 395.

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Like Modoc county in Part 17, Harney county suffixes some of their routes (here HarCo 125B). Note the route name badge, which we haven't seen in this form since Lassen county (Part 15).

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You're guaranteed to meet God a lot sooner if you come to the West Bank.

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Hines City Hall, another city hall on US 395 to add to our list.

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The main drag in Hines isn't much now.

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Burns city limits.

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Augh, not again! (At the T-intersection immediately in front of the city limit sign.)

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Entering Burns.

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Turnoff for the fairgrounds. Typical of Burns is this spread-out feel, with large lots.

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Shortly afterwards, we pick up Hines Blvd from a sidestreet and continue by that name.

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A little chilly.

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Hines Blvd then merges into Monroe St, and picks up that alignment.

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The Days Inn (see Part 18 for my very favourable review).

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Some old advance signage approaching the OR 78 junction on the east side of town.

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Junction OR 78 at Broadway. OR 78 is carried on OH #442 (Steens Hwy) to Burns Junction, 93 miles away, where it intersects with US 95. We turn left to become Broadway.

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But don't forget to look back for another sign goof as we head north.

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[Burns, 1960s?, 84K.] North Burns, showing the old downtown. Compare with this Jervie Eastman 1941 photograph and this (likely 1960s) Morton Luman postcard at right (click for a 84K larger view). Note the US 20 and US 395 shields in the inset of the Luman postcard.

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Crossing up, over and down the hill at Mile 132 (flattened).

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Leaving Burns.

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Crossing the Silvies River (but variously also called Silvies Creek), named for Antoine Sylvaille, a local trapper who assisted the infamous Peter Skene Ogden after being sent to the area in 1826. (Skene Ogden will be discussed some in the next few Parts.) The name probably started as "Sylvaille's" and was gradually corrupted over time to "Silvie's" and then "Silvies." The Silvies River/Silvies Creek is one of the feeders for Malheur Lake, far to the south back in the Harney Basin. We will be seeing this little landmark a bit more later on.

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See, if you photograph it like this, it looks like a river.

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Or, if you photograph it like this, it looks like a creek.

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Distance signage leaving town. Vale is just west of Ontario on US 20.

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Mile 133.

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Advance signage for the US 395 separation.

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Coming around the turn.

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We turn left to continue as US 395 north, leaving OH #7 (Central Oregon Hwy).

Continue to Part 20

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