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2014 Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway Forest Road 39 open yet?

US Forest Service image of the Hells Canyon Scenic BywayIt seems like every year in May we hear variations on the same question:

Is the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road open yet?

Is the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway open yet?

Is Forest Road 39 or FR39 or Highway 39 open yet?

For 2014, it’s going to be a little difficult to answer because there’s already major reconstruction of this beloved road going on and it will continue through October 2014.  Fortunately for us all, the Wallowa-Whitman Office of the US Forest Service has a page on their website with press releases on the road’s status.  You’ll find the latest information at this link.  If you have difficulty visualizing exactly where the construction is taking place and where the detour routes are, take a look at the map on this PDF file.

Here’s a synopsis from the May 1, 2014, press release:

Spring 2014: Construction work on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 has begun and this section of the road will be closed until June 15, which will begin the next phase of the construction, roadway excavation (see next bullet).
June 16, 2014 to June 30 2014: The 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 will be closed beginning at 8:00 am every Tuesday morning through 5:00 pm every Thursday evening 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. The road will be open at 5:01 pm every Thursday evening through 7:59 am every Tuesday morning for travel 6/16/14 – 6/30/14. However, it’s important to note that the road surface will be rough as it is still under construction during these open periods.
July 1, 2014 to October 15, 2014: Visitors can expect up to one hour delays on the 13-mile North Pine section of FSR 39 or use the detour. Construction activities will be on-going, so please drive responsibility through the construction zone (see detour route information below beginning July 1, 2014).

Detour Route Information: Forest Service Road (FSR) 66 will be available for use as the detour route depending on snow levels. FSR 66 begins at the junction of FSR 39 and FSR 66 (also referred to as Duck Creek, Fish Lake Road, Twin Lakes Road, or Clear Creek Road) and continues west then south before connecting with Baker County Road 999, just north of Halfway. The detour route is 30 miles in length and is a single-lane gravel road with turnouts. The route is suitable for vehicles with trailers; however it is not recommended for motor homes. Visitors should be aware that the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road and FSR 66 are often closed by snow from late October through late June, and are not passable by automobiles during this time period. Both FSR 66 and FSR 39 are snowmobile routes.

Bottom line:  If you’re planning to drive center section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in 2014, you’ll need patience.  This is particularly important for guests going to/from Hells Canyon Adventures jetboats at the Hells Canyon Dam and for guests coming from Idaho on the back way.  If you’re a motorcyclist, watch the press releases.  Much of the detour route involves gravel roads.

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