After crossing the Deschutes River from the Warm Springs reservation, US-26 climbs up a deep canyon, then plateaus at Madras (pop. 6,662), birthplace of the late actor River Phoenix and of Boston Red Sox baseball hero Jacoby Ellsbury. By strange coincidence, the town is named for a metropolis in Eastern India (the original Madras is now called Chennai and has a population of seven million). In the 1980s thousands of orange- and red-clad followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh settled near and effectively took over this small Oregon town, but things here have been back to normal for a long while.
There’s not a great deal to see or do in Madras, which stands at the junction of US-26 and busy US-97, but there are stores and gas stations and at least one good place to stay, on the south side of Madras: Sonny’s Motel (1539 US-97, 541/475-7217, $80 and up), which has clean rooms and a pool. The best food is at the Black Bear Diner (237 SW 4th St., 541/475-6632), a block west of US-26.
One of eastern Oregon’s landmarks, and a celebrated challenge to rock climbers, Smith Rock State Park (541/548-7501 or 800/551-6949, $5) is 28 miles south of Madras along US-97.