Umpqua National Forest
The North Umpqua is one of the most beautiful rivers on the Pacific Northwest coast. Renowned for its excellent summer steelhead fly-fishing opportunities, it provides a unique challenge to anglers from all over the world. It also provides an exhilarating challenge to those who choose to float on its whitewater (see route below). The shoreline offers an outstanding scenic drive for a good 60 miles.
World Class Fisheries
The combination of large summer-run steelhead, fly-angling only restriction, and majestic scenery has drawn anglers from all over the world. The North Umpqua River serves as needed habitat for a variety of resident and anadromous fish species, including summer and winter steelhead, fall and spring chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sea-run cutthroat trout.
The North Umpqua is distinguished from other rivers by the large and consistent numbers of native (non-hatchery) fish in the run. Its summer steelhead fishery is considered to be one of the most outstanding on the West Coast. Steamboat Creek and its tributaries are the major spawning grounds for the summer steelhead that run the North Umpqua River. Since 1932, Steamboat Creek has been closed to all fishing but there are a slew of fishing pools on the main river just downstream from where the creek enters.
Hatchery-reared fish are used to supplement wild fish numbers. Catching and keeping a wild fish has a greater effect on the fish population than catching and keeping hatchery fish. Why? Hatchery fish are protected in a hatchery pond for a portion of their lives, while wild fish must survive stream disturbances and predators. Wild fish are better adapted to survive the wide range of conditions found in nature. Returning wild fish to the stream allows those fish to spawn and pass on their genetic ability of survival to their offspring, enabling the wild fish population to remain healthy and increase in numbers.
Running the River
River flow is measured just upstream from Copeland Creek. This is the best indicator of river conditions from Boulder Flat to Steamboat Creek. Average monthly flow in May is 2,060 cubic feet per second (cfs); the average in June is 1,720 cfs, in July it's 1,100 cfs, in August it's 910 cfs, and September flows average 860 cfs.
The river height gauge is located at river mile 67.2, just east of the Copeland Creek bridge. River flows are also available daily at a gauge downstream from Steamboat (river mile 48.2) at Wright Creek. With the extra volume from Steamboat Creek flows here can be 50 percent higher than at Copeland following rain.
The raft trip is a doozy. To run a full 34-mile stretch could take a few days. But there are plenty of accesses for day trips. Uppermost put-in is Boulder Flat, 68 miles upriver from Roseburg. For the next 12 miles, you will bump through one Class II or III rapid after another. With names like Lunch Counter, Cardiac Arrest, and Toilet Bowl, you know your insides will be shaken.
Thirteen miles down, Horshoe offers another put-in/take-out, as does Apple Creek 4 miles and 5 Class III rapids farther. Right after Apple Creek, you hit Pinball, the only Class IV in this stretch. After that, you hit a bunch of Class IIIs and IVs, with put-ins/take-outs at Gravel Bin (7 miles past Apple Creek), Bogus Creek and Wright Creek (5 miles farther), and Susan Creek (7 miles farther still).
If you keep going, you will hit Deadline Falls in 7 miles, Class V—you ain't seen nothing yet!
Another trip to think about is Boulder Flat to Gravel Bin. It is 13 miles and is Class II and III with a IV about 8 miles above Gravel Bin called Pinball. It requires a lot of maneuvering to get though it due to the rocks set up like a pinball machine. Note that Gravel Bin to Bogus Creek is closed July 15-October 31 due to fishing conflicts.
The Umpqua is serious business. Make sure you know what you're doing, solicit advice from the Forest Service, and if you have any doubts, get some professional help.
The Scenic Drive
Highway 138 runs along the river for about 60 miles out of Roseburg. Mostly along the north shore, the road leads to waterfalls, watchable wildlife areas, even a disabled-accessible fishing hole. Here are some of the treats you will encounter.
Colliding Rivers Visitor Information Center
Constructed in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this building now houses a visitor information center and bookstore. Located at milepost 17, near the North Umpqua Ranger Station in Glide, the center provides a wide range of information about recreational opportunities throughout the state of Oregon. Just across the road is the Colliding Rivers Viewpoint.
Swiftwater Recreation Site
Located at milepost 22 on Highway 138, the Swiftwater trailhead marks the beginning of the North Umpqua Trail, a 79-mile path that parallels the North Umpqua River for its entire length eastward and leads to the Pacific Crest Trail. A new day-use area with a handicap accessible fishing platform is scheduled for completion in the fall of 1993.
Deadline Falls Trail
Accessed off the North Umpqua Trailhead at Swiftwater Recreation Site, this easy one-quarter mile trail leads to a "Watchable Wildlife" viewing area where fish may be seen jumping the falls from June to October.
Susan Creek Falls
At milepost 29 on Highway 138, this one-mile trail offers hikers a view of Susan Creek Falls. One-quarter mile beyond the falls are the Susan Creek Indian Mounds.
Fall Creek Falls and Jobs Garden
Located on Highway 138 at milepost 34, this one-mile National Recreation Trail passes through narrow crevices in large rocks. Unique volcanic columnar rock formations and scenic streamside views abound along the trail to the falls.
At milepost 39 along Highway 138 is a three-hinged spandrel-braced arch that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. Cross this bridge to access the North Umpqua Trail and an interpretive information kiosk.
From milepost 49 (Marsters Bridge) west, there is an excellent "Watchable Wildlife" site. Spring chinook salmon spawning activity can be easily seen from the highway in late September and October. Look for "cleaned" gravel depressions (redds) where these large fish have stirred up the gravels and deposited up to several thousand eggs.
Columnar Basalt Columns
Lichens add color to these perpendicular pillars of volcanic rock near the Soda Springs Dam.
Three miles east of Soda Springs Dam at milepost 59, a one-half mile trail follows the North Umpqua River as it cascades through a water-worn basalt channel. A platform at the trail's end offers a view of an 80-foot falls that plunges over a sheer wall of basalt columns.
The third highest falls in Oregon, with a drop of 272 feet, is located along Highway 138 at milepost 61.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication