Beware dangers of Morgan Lake Road

By Dorothy Swart Fleshman January 17, 2012 08:52 pm

In case you are unaware of it, Morgan Lake Road to the south of La Grande, leading to the lake by the same name, and multiple homes, is a very dangerous road.

Another accident occurred on it last week in which, fortunately, there were no fatalities.  I don’t know the cause. It may have been speed or a deer in the road. There are always hazards for the unwary.

I was driving up that road and was there when the tow truck had righted the car in preparation to hauling it away. My car was waved on through around the curve where I was momentarily in jeopardy should a fast-traveling vehicle have been coming downhill at just that moment.

At least three accidents have been reported this winter that I am aware of and there could be more. When I transport myself up and down that narrow curvy road, I cling to the far right in hopes of not being targeted by errant drivers.

This road, many years ago, was a cow trail called Mill Canyon Road where ranchers drove their herds to and from summer pasture. There were a couple sawmills, I’m told, up there for a short period and later, a cabin or two.

Eventually there was a fox/skunk fur farm.

One hundred years ago (1912), my grandfather built a barn and then a house right above where the most recent accident took place. Way up near the lake, over the years, more year-round residents constructed homes. There is a virtual village of folks now.

The cattle drives shared the road with horse-drawn lumbering wagons pulled along the dusty or muddy way, aware of each other’s needs for space in passing. Sledders, hikers and solo ponies were reasonably safe. If we heard the motor of a car, we would look out because they often were coming to see us. It isn’t that way anymore.

It was while we were living there that the city banned the cowboy-driven cattle from passing along B Avenue and up into the hills along our road. Then the road name was changed to Morgan Lake Road because it led to the lake.

The county widened the access for vehicles for easier travel.

Folks seemed to get the idea that it had become a thoroughfare for speed, a race track of sorts. Accidents, severe injuries and fatalities followed.

The city made the Morgan Lake area a park, which invited more and more users. No longer was it the haven for the few folks who enjoyed the solitude of a fishing line in the waters of the quiet forest.

Easy access for everyone is a good thing, but the road now is a danger to all who walk or ride its dusty trail. Its width is governed by the canyon walls, widened pretty well to its full potential, with the canyon creek on one side and private hillside land on the other. It is steep with blind curves. It is pretty much the only ingress and egress, the primary way in and out of the hill, a prime worry in case of a possible blockage of the road.

Hikers, homeowners, fisher folk and solitude seekers are met with vehicles of every sort from the sedan to pickups and all in between, racing bicycles, overly long cattle trucks, sometimes log trucks and 30-foot plus motor homes.

Progress is as progress does, but it could be improved with an awareness of others on the road besides themselves and the dangers that await the innocent when speeders or middle-of-the-road drivers take over the lanes.

A more frequent presence of the county sheriff or whatever police force governs the safety of our byway would be a hopeful deterrent to those behind the wheel.

I don’t want to see another accident on our road.

And, I sure as the world don’t want to be the innocent victim.

The open winter has left an open road without the dangers inherent in snow and ice, especially for those who attack the hill without proper traction devices. With summer coming, even more use will be put upon the road and the lake facilities.

Please, folks, slow down, stay to the right, and keep an eye out for those coming your reverse way. It truly isn’t your private driveway.


Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native.