East of the Cascades crest, US-26 becomes the Warm Springs Highway as it angles down out of the mountains across the sage and juniper country of eastern Oregon. Most of the land between here and Madras is part of the more than 600,000-acre Warm Springs Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and their Kah-Nee-Ta Resort (800/554-4786; pronounced “ca-NEE-da,” all run together despite the odd spelling), a 1970s complex that cheerfully blends ancient and mid-century modern lifestyles. You can soak in the famously soothing hot springs, camp in a tepee, play golf along the banks of the Warm Springs River, and savor salmon fillets cooked over an alderwood fire.
Back on US-26, the real attraction of the reservation is the modern 25,000-square-foot Museum at Warm Springs (541/553-3331, Tues.-Sat., $7). Check out exhibits of more than 20,000 artifacts, replicas of a Paiute mat lodge and a Wasco plank house, recordings of Native American languages, and a push-button-activated Wasco wedding scene. A mile east, at the edge of the reservation, US-26 bridges the deep canyon of the Deschutes River.