One Year in the Rogue Valley - Page 5
Our recommendations of fascinating places to see in southern Oregon
Barr Creek Falls near Prospect
From the Rogue Valley, several waterfalls can be visited in an afternoon.
Mill Creek Falls
The closest are the Mill Creek Falls near the town of Prospect. From Medford, take the very scenic highway 62 and drive about an hour. Before reaching Prospect, look for the brown signs along the highway pointing to Mill Creek Falls.
In this location there are two waterfalls, both of them with plenty of water, even in late summer. One waterfall is named Mill Creek and the other Barr Creek. An easy trail leads from the parking lot to a steep, rocky bank opposite the falls. Cedars, madrones, and other local trees complete the lush scenery.
After viewing the falls, backtrack on the trail about half way until you see signs for Avenue of the Giant Boulders. Follow the trail to the large boulders rounded by the Rogue River. The water here is swift, deep, and postcard perfect. Shallow pools along the edge provide a wonderful cool retreat. Braver souls can pose atop large boulders for memorable pictures. In autumn, the turning leaves add even more vibrant colors to this rocky river scene.
About two hours from Medford is Tokatee Falls, the most scenic of the waterfalls we have visited. The quickest way to get there is to take I-5 north to 138 and go east toward the town of Tokatee Falls. Continue east on 138 approximately 3 additional miles to Forest Road 34 and follow the signs to the falls.
Tokatee Falls—the most scenic waterfall we have seen.
This waterfall is on the North Umpqua River, consisting of two sections: an upper section 40 feet high and a lower section 80 feet high. The water above and below the waterfall is a deep turquoise or blue, depending on the angle. It is too steep to walk down to the base of the waterfall, though obvious foot trails exist from people trying. The main viewing area is a large wood deck at the end of a half mile trail from the parking lot.
About three miles from Tokatee Falls is Watson Falls, the tallest in southwest Oregon at 272 feet. It drops over a vertical stone cliff into a pool surrounded by mossy boulders and lush vegetation.
From Tokatee Falls get back on 138 heading east. After driving less than three miles, turn right, or south, onto Forest Road 37. Almost immediately after turning onto 37, signs for Watson Falls and the trailhead parking lot are visible on the right.
The short trail to the waterfall starts in the parking lot, crosses over the road, and continues in the woods. It meanders through the woods and crosses Watson Creek over a wooden bridge, from which the waterfall is visible. The trail continues closer, ending at a lookout elevated about a third way up the waterfall. My wife and I left the trail at a sharp turn directly in front of the waterfall, and braved the wet boulders to reach the base. There we stood among moss-covered boulders, enjoying the mist on our face.
South Umpqua Falls
Viewing the falls was enjoyable, but we could not consider our experience complete until we swam in one. Up to this point the falls were either physically inaccessible or the water was too swift, or too cold, to enter. My wife inquired about waterfalls in which we could swim, and a co-worker told her about South Umpqua Falls near the town of Tiller.
South Umpqua Falls in late July is a popular place to cool off. Less crowded swimming holes are only a short distance downstream.
To get there, take highway 62 to the town of Trail, then turn north on highway 227, which takes you all the way to Tiller. Before entering town, the highway crosses over the South Umpqua River. After crossing the bridge, take the immediate right on road 46. The waterfall is several miles up this road, just a little past the point when you think you are lost. The park is clearly marked and has a good number of parking spaces. On busy summer days, parking may only be available on the road shoulder.
The waterfall is only about ten feet tall as it gently runs over rounded rock. Enthusiastic kids of all ages slide down the slippery rock of the waterfall into the deep pool below. Others dive or jump from the salmon ladder wall. Outside the pool, the water is shallow and perfect temperature for a refreshing late-July swim.
This section of the river runs over a wide slab of rock, the water only about two inches deep. We spent our time soaking up the sun and the cool water a short distance downstream, where the river is narrower and deeper, some places up to our neck.