The first thing to know about Central Oregon (other than that it’s an incredible place to live) is that it’s anchored by three main cities: the golden triangle of Bend, Redmond and Sisters.
Sisters, located at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, secures the northern tip of the triangle, with Redmond to the east and Bend to the south. Keep heading east of Redmond, and you´ll find the communities of Powell Butte and Prineville; journey south of Bend, and you’ll find first the popular destination resort Sunriver (along with its new cousin, Caldera Springs), then the recently incorporated city of La Pine. Last but definitely not least, there’s the tiny little hamlet known as Tumalo. It’s a tiny community of mostly rural ranch properties located between Sisters and Bend (I like to describe it as not a location but a state of mind).
If all you know about the quaint city of Sisters is that it’s exceedingly popular with tourists (who ooh and ahh over its Western theme and 1880s storefront facades), you´ve only scratched the surface.
Yes, Sisters is almost shamefully scenic, with its close proximity to the Three Sisters Mountains (many people refer to the town as the Gateway to the Cascades because of its proximity to the McKenzie and Santiam passes). So it’s a popular stop-over for outdoors enthusiasts of all kinds, who find ample opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, golfing, snow sports and water sports within an easy drive from downtown (the Sisters Ranger District maintains more than 50 trails). And it’s a hop-skip-and-jump away from some of the best fly-fishing in the country — the headwaters of the mighty Metolius River are found in nearby in Camp Sherman.
It’s rich in culture, with a year-round calendar of arts festivals, concerts and crafts fairs (it’s probably most famous as home to the largest outdoor quilt show in the country, which is always held the second Saturday in July).
It’s a haven for boutique shoppers, offering everything from art galleries and high-end Western wear to handcrafted log furniture, antiques and pioneer collectibles.
It has one of the best restaurants in the state (Jen’s Garden, which has won numerous awards).
And the annual Sisters Rodeo is first-rate.
Then there’s the highly acclaimed Sisters School District, a unified school district with approximately 1,300 students at four facilities (elementary, middle and high schools, plus the Sisters Charter Academy of Fine Arts).
But what you may not know about Sisters is that it’s also an extremely close-knit community of 1,750 citizens. Just check out the town’s local newspaper, The Nugget, which is delivered free throughout town each Wednesday (and quickly disappears). Folks here care about what´s happening in their community and don´t hesitate to speak their mind and get involved.
In part, that may be the case because of the unprecedented growth the community has experienced in the past several years. Back in 2000, the population was just 975, which means that Sisters has grown almost 60 percent in less than a decade. That’s enough to capture anyone´s attention — and it has. The big question here is not just “How will Sisters grow?” but also “Where will Sisters grow?” And “Should Sisters grow?”
Here, where the bulk of the school´s population base of almost 15,000 lives outside the city’s limits, breathing room is still highly valued. In addition to several area subdivisions that feature lots of a half-acre or larger (Tollgate, Crossroads and Squaw Creek Canyon Estates), you’ll find a broad range of housing possibilities — everything from the self-sufficient resort of Black Butte Ranch to small two- to five-acre ranchettes and expansive 20-acre or more horse properties.
In the past five years, Sisters has seen the arrival of several new in-town subdivisions, including Timber Creek and Hayden Homes’ Village at Cold Springs.
Notable commercial developments include the 6,000-square-foot Sisters Coffee Company lodge (which provides just to great coffee but a popular community gathering place), the Sisters Movie House, Shibui Spa, FivePine Lodge & Conference Center, and its restaurant Thyme, Three Creeks Brewery (also at Five Pine), a new county library and a new City Hall, an expansive shopping center at the new Ray’s Food Place.
Not surprisingly, some folks who live in Sisters expressly because of its small-town charm aren’t in any hurry to encourage further development. So Sisters (like much of Central Oregon) is at a crossroads. The vote is still out on whether the community will embrace or resist further growth.
Sisters at a Glance:
Population (July 2008): 1,875 (although the population within its school district boundaries is in the neighborhood of 15,000).
Elevation: 3,180 feet
Climate: 14 inches of annual precipitation (mostly snow). Summer temperatures average 84 degrees during the day and 41 degrees at night; winter temperatures average 41 degrees during the day and 21 degrees at night.
Namesake: The Three Sisters Mountains (known around here as Faith, Hope & Charity, but officially called the North Sister, Middle Sister and South Sister).
Technically, Tumalo doesn’t even exist (it’s a small, unincorporated community of several hundred people located about 10 miles northwest of Bend). Most residents live on acreage outside Tumalo proper, which features one main street that intersects with Highway 20).
There’s a lot to love about Tumalo (that’s Tuhm-uh-low). Those unfamiliar with the area might assume there’s little here beyond the small, quaint downtown, located just off Highway 20. But for many years, Tumalo has been the ultimate Central Oregon destination for those who value the land.
Because much of the region is zoned Exclusive Farm Use, most parcels are 20 acres or more, which makes Tumalo an undeniably rural setting, despite the fact that it’s five minutes from Bend. Here, you’ll find a mix of longtime farmers and ranchers, combined with horse owners and other folks who enjoy a more rural environment and those who simply appreciate the breathtakingly scenic setting.
Many Tumalo residents have strong ties to the area, having lived — and farmed or ranched — here for decades or longer. Most are horse owners; many recent transplants are drawn here because of its easy access to some excellent horse trails. Even those who aren’t equestrians appreciate its proximity to the Cascades — you’ll find some of the most incredible mountain views in the region in western Tumalo (the area is divided by Highway 20)
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