The construction of this dam put Heppner on the map. The dam is the first roller-compacted concrete dam in the world. This structure, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1983, creates a 125-acre lake with year-rounding fishing, swimming, and boating. The lake includes a day park, boat launch, docking facilities, and handicapped parking and restroom. You pass by the lake as you travel on toward the Blue Mountains.
The reservoir supports a wide array of mammals and waterfowl including buffleheads, Canada geese, and osprey. And don’t forget the ducks and beavers. Past the reservoir Willow Creek makes its way through the hills toward the Blue Mountains. Several outcroppings of columnar basalt line the highway and a basalt knob a few miles out of town supports a resident family of goats.
The steep hills appear rutted and are in fact terraced by grazing animals. Deer and even elk can sometimes be spotted in the foothills and riparian zones. Upland gamebirds such as chukars, California quail, and Sharptail grouse often scurry across the road during your ride. American kestrels swoop along the road guarding their territory from each telephone pole. Near the base of the timbered zone, a bald eagle can sometimes be seen observing the roadway from a comfortable perch.