Guest Author - Louise Aiello
Sisters, Oregon is known as the Gateway to the Cascade Mountains. It welcomes visitors with spectacular scenery and lively year-round entertainment.
After the last local lumber mill closed in 1963, Sisters hit hard times. The national economic downturns in the 1970’s and 1980’s added further challenges for its 2,200 residents. Applying their independent Oregonian spirit, the town folk transformed Sisters into a thriving destination built around tourism. Storefronts and buildings were restored to emphasize the town’s late 1800’s western theme. And, a wide range of events now attract visitors from around the globe.
For over 70 years the Sisters’ Rodeo has thrilled rodeo fans. The Sisters’ Rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America (PRCA) and is the third largest rodeo in Oregon. It is also the largest Oregon rodeo produced by an all-volunteer staff. The rodeo takes place annually in mid-June. With the highest winner’s purse in the early part of the rodeo season, it attracts many of the top winners in the PRCA providing fans a first-hand look at the sport’s finest competitors pitting their skills against the finest bulls and horses in the Northwest.
Every July, Sisters hosts an Outdoor Quilt Show with a full week of activities including raffles, auctions, and quilting classes. The downtown is wrapped in the quilts of local quilters, hung by volunteers throughout the town outside stores supporting the Quilt Show. Quilters from all around the world gather in Sisters to experience one of the most colorful displays of the quilters’ art to be found in the United States.
The Sisters’ Folk Festival is a three day celebration of American music, from blues to bluegrass, held every year the weekend after Labor Day in September. The Festival is home to six stages welcoming prominent and upcoming artists.
In October, Sisters salutes its heritage as a former timber town with its “From Timber to Turned Wood” event featuring a vigorous lumberjack exhibition with log rolling, cross-cut sawing, hot sawing, ax throwing, chainsaw carving and chopping, speed pole climbing and an obstacle pole relay race. Local musicians join in the fun with a “Log Jam.”
Natural Wonders and Recreation
On the edge of town, the Deschutes National Forest offers 1.6 million acres laced with miles and miles of trails, wet and wild rivers, and scenic drives.
Fly fishermen can enjoy fishing on the Metolius River, home to rainbow trout and Kokane salmon.
Hikers in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area can view the lush alpine meadows, pristine lakes, and, in early summer, beautiful wildflowers.
Visitors will want to drive the 82 mile round trip on the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Byway. The natural environment surrounding the Byway boasts national significance with outstanding examples of both ancient and recent volcanoes, cinder cones, lava flows, and deep, glaciated canyons. Forests along the Byway contain rare old-growth fir and ponderosa pine, and are home to a great variety of wildlife, including several endangered species, such as bald eagles, northern spotted owls, Chinook salmon and bull trout.
During the warmer summer months visitors enjoy water sports such as swimming, waterskiing, kayaking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting. In winter, you can experience the thrill of being pulled by a team of Alaskan Huskies or go alpine or cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing at HooDoo Ski Bowl.
Golfers will be in paradise with the three 18-hole golf courses within the immediate Sisters area.
Closest to Sisters is Aspen Lakes, an Audubon Signature course that features the unique use of red volcanic “sand” in the bunkers. Fairways are generous and the course is very playable by golfers of varying skill levels.
Black Butte Ranch, located seven miles west of Sisters, has two 18-hole golf courses—the Big Meadow Course and the Glaze Meadow Course. The Big Meadow Course won acclaim for keeping true to its original design while being updated to modern standards. The Glaze Meadow Course is a real player’s course; friends who have golfed Glaze Meadow tell me that, with good concentration it is possible to shoot a low number, but, if you let your focus lapse for only a moment, the course will eat you alive. This course is within a gated community so you will need to obtain a gate pass in advance of your tee time.
For reasonable rates, comfortable cabins and Recreational Vehicle (RV) parking spaces are available a few minutes out of town. A few hotels are available in Sisters but space goes quickly during the rodeo and quilt show so you should make reservations early. Information on accomodations is available on the Sisters’ website.
Interesting events, unique town architecture and shopping, recreational activities and the scenic beauty of the area make Sisters, Oregon a special west coast travel destination.