Umpqua National Forest Overview
|Umpqua National Forest (Dennis Flaherty/Digital Vision/Getty)|
This wild swath of forest, half of it old growth, encompasses 984,602 acres in southwestern Oregon, making it larger than Luxembourg. If that doesn't help your orientation, think of a patch of land the size of Rhode Island, only a whole lot hillier and draped in giant, moss-covered conifers.
Umpqua National Forest is a primal landscape of razorback ridges and lush temperate rainforest teeming with blackberry bushes, alders, and salmonberry. It is perfect for an escape from the trappings of modern-day life.
Hikers can wander along timbered valleys of Douglas fir, old-growth ponderosa, and groves of oak that separate sentinels such as the 9,182-foot Mt. Thielsen and the 8,363-foot Mt. Bailey. The geologically curious can explore the volcanic basalt and andesite monolithic spires whose descriptive names include Eagle Rock, Rattlesnake Rock, and Old Man.
The North Umpqua River is a torrent of whitewater that sends rafters and kayakers barreling down the river gorge, occasionally dropping one of them into the frothy drink. Not only do helmeted kayakers run the river, but fishermen also count on a bountiful summer run of steelhead. Elsewhere in the forest, secluded waterfalls offer soothing pockets of solitude far from the crowd.
The forest is named for the Umpqua Indians, one of several aboriginal groups who inhabited the Umpqua river area in the early 19th century. The U.S. Army deported them en masse to the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations following the Rogue River Wars of 1852-1856.
Hike Parker Falls
Parker Falls Trail is a one-mile journey through a forest of mature Douglas fir and leads to a spectacular series of waterfalls, pools, and cascades. The narrow trail, though short, is difficult because of several steep and rocky stretches near the rock bluffs.
Bike Brice Creek Trail
This 10.5-mile loop of single-track interspersed with paved road snakes its way along trails used by miners working the Bohemia Mining District in the early 1900s. The trail offers technical challenges such as slippery moss-covered rocks, tree roots, rocky cliffs, and poison oak. It passes through dense forest and follows a rushing creek. Mountain bikers can cool off in the many rocky pools and waterfalls that line the trail.
Raft the North Umpqua
If you put-in at Boulder Flat, 68 miles upriver from Roseburg, the next 12 miles offers Class II and III rapids with names like Lunch Counter, Cardiac Arrest, and Toilet Bowl. You'll pass another put-in at Horsehoe—the next four miles offer five separate Class III rapids. Another put-in at Apple Creek sets you up for the Class IV Pinball, where the rocks are situated like bumpers in a pinball machine. You'll pass put-ins/take-outs at Gravel Bin, Bogus Creek, Wright Creek, and Susan Creek as you hurtle toward Class V Deadline Falls.
Nordic Ski Pizza Connection
Umqua offers nearly 100 miles of cross-country ski trails, some of which are even groomed. Pizza Connection is an easy 2.5-mile groomed trail with superb views of Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey—extra cheese please, but hold the anchovies. The trail is located in the South Diamond Sno-Park, which is located 0.2 miles west of the junctions of Highway 230 and Highway 138 (about 85 miles from Medford on Hwy. 230, and 85 miles from Roseburg on Hwy. 138).
Drop a Fly for Steelhead
Summer steelhead runs on the North Umpqua River are unbelievable, and considered one of the best on the West Coast. Also expect winter steelhead, fall and spring chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sea-run cutthroat trout. Anglers from all over the world descend on the North Umpqua in search of the ultimate fishing experience in this beatific setting amidst dogwood, willow, and vine maple. During autumn, willow turns golden and dogwood ignites into a fiery red. Expect stiff competition from the local mergansers—these diving, fish-eating ducks are equipped with narrowly serrated bills perfect for clamping down on juvenile salmon and steelhead.
Take a Roguish Road Trip
Load the kids up in the station wagon and take them on this 172-mile scenic drive from Ashland through Medford and historic Jacksonville (one of only eight cities designated a National Historic Landmark) to the edge of the azure waters at Crater Lake and beyond. The drive follows Highway 138 through the Umpqua National Forest and snakes its way along the North Umpqua River.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication