A day's drive up the McKenzie

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      BLUE RIVER, Ore. Our lack of snow in the Cascades doesn't have to put a damper on your winter time fun. The McKenzie River offers several places where you can warm up on a chilly day.

      There's no white on the landscape, a rarity for Oregon's national forests in winter. But that means travelers are having to find other ways to spend their time.

      "If you're not much into skiing or snowshoeing, this is a great opportunity to get out and hike or bike. A lot of our trails are open," Katie Isacksen said. Isacksen is the public affairs specialist with the Willamette National Forest.

      The McKenzie River trail is a popular spot for hikers. And even with no snow on the ground, the Terwilliger Hot Springs still draw a crowd.

      "So, people who are driving over to Sisters or just on a road trip have been stopping in to see the falls, which during this time of year is normally not accessible," Isacksen said.

      But that's certainly not the only hot spot on the McKenzie.

      "The water is about 210 degrees," Rod Fouts said while describing the source of the hot spring at Belknap Lodge.

      The resort sits off highway 126, and the staff admit, the not quite hidden gem on the river can be easy to miss.

      "Because of the scenic by-way and stuff, you can't put up too much signage out there," Fouts said. "So it is tucked away and little known sometimes to some folks who just travel by."

      The water for the pool is piped in from the source across the bridge. The staff keep the pool at a steamy 104 degrees. But you'll find more than 20 minerals in the spring water. And people who come to take a soak swear by the pool's rejuvenating power.

      "It's good for what ails you during the winter time, that's for sure," Fouts said.

      "It's like your cares wash away and you just kind of melt and it's just like you don't want to leave," newlywed David Lomond said.

      And with a garden, two heated pools, along with rooms with a view, large cabins and campsites for rent, you certainly don't have to leave in a hurry.

      You don't need a reservation to sit in the pool at Belknap Lodge. It's open every day of the week.
      Keep in mind, if you are heading to Terwilliger Hot Springs, clothing is optional and visitors are not permitted from sundown to sunrise.