A Long Stay in the Umpqua Valley
Many of us know Southern Oregon for Crater Lake National Park, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the sea stacks and arches that define Oregon’s pristine South Coast beaches. Much of the peaks, rivers and valleys of Southern Oregon are a mystery to many of us. But Roseburg, Myrtle Creek and Sutherlin — a nature-lover’s paradise some 90 miles south of Eugene, on the I-5 corridor — makes for a dreamy long stay, filled with enough backcountry adventure to last ‘til your next road trip. Here’s some of the area’s best bets:
Fly fishing and raft trips
It’s easy to fall in love with the wild and scenic Umpqua River, which stretches 111 miles from through the western slope of the Cascade Range to the Coast. Dozens of creeks and tributaries of the Umpqua are renown for their fly fishing and whitewater rafting. From Roseburg, pack a picnic and head north to the North Umpqua River, a 33.8-mile Wild and Scenic section just minutes away. Cast your line into the pristine waters for trout and steelhead. Or if you’re in the mood for thrills, sign up for a guided half-day or full-day float down the rapids. Outfitters like North Umpqua Outfitters and Oregon Whitewater Adventures offer trips through September.
Hiking and mountain biking
Alongside the Umpqua River there’s an 80-mile trail, with sections both mild and rugged to explore. The Umpqua corridor also boasts 17 dazzling falls, most of which are easily accessible by a short hike. Start at Swiftwater Park, 22 miles east of Roseburg, and hike a few miles through fern groves along the challenging Tioga Segment of trail. You’ll soon be rewarded with the sight of the massive Deadline Falls — where you can see salmon jumping through October — and smaller but picturesque Fern Creek Falls.
Food and wine
When you’ve worked up an appetite, sit back and relax as you taste your way through some of the finest wines Southern Oregon has to offer. Start by traveling out Garden Valley Road to Cooper Ridge Vineyard. Sip on tempranillo, pinot noir or syrah with a panoramic view of the Garden Valley; you won’t want to leave the patio tables overlooking the vineyards. On your way back, stop at Blac-N-Bleu Bistro for a burger or a fresh-caught steelhead dinner. Or take a worthy detour at Paul O’Brien Winery, located in a historic brick building in downtown Roseburg that’s been transformed into a chic urban space for visitors.
History and art
Like many Oregon cities, Roseburg is rich with history — and you can take a self-guided walking tour to get a good sense of it all. Start at the historical marker for the Applegate Trail, which was considered a safer passage to the Oregon territory and brought many settlers through Roseburg in the 1800s. Stroll through the vibrant downtown, filled with boutique shops and eateries. And don’t miss the bits of remaining evidence from what’s known as the Roseburg Blast — a truckload full of dynamite that exploded in 1959, leveling eight city blocks. Pick up a brochure and visit 12 of the blast sites. Take another trip back in time at the Umpqua Plein Air event (Sept. 13-16), an annual three-day festival that has artists painting Impressionist-style works inspired by the region’s pastoral landscape. Come for the art, stay for the dinner and live music.
There’s no shortage of summer entertainment in the Umpqua Valley. Every Tuesday from June through August, Roseburg’s Music on the Half Shell hosts free performances at Stewart Park, with concerts ranging from folk rock to brass bands, blues and R&B to classical. Thursdays in Myrtle Creek, the Music in the Park free concert series — the longest running in Douglas County — features some of the Pacific Northwest’s best rhythm and blues bands on an iconic shell stage. On Fridays, downtown Sutherlin becomes a giant block party with its free Music Off Central shows. The family-friendly Douglas County Fair (Aug. 9-12, 2017) has enough carnival rides, games, traveling shows, food and big-name performers to keep everyone happy — 2017 brings Melissa Etheridge, Old Dominion and Papa Roach to the stage. The Sutherlin Blackberry Festival (Aug. 18-20, 2017), hosts tasty cook-offs, car shows, BMX racing, mud volleyball and barrel races. And for a touch of culture, check out the Celtic Highland Games (Aug. 19-20, 2017), where you’ll marvel at the edged weapon competition, heavy Scottish athletics and family clan tents.
A stop in Roseburg wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Wildlife Safari in Winston, just 10 miles south of town. The unique 400-acre park opened in 1972 and has been thrilling crowds ever since. Pay an entrance fee and drive your car through, Jurassic Park-style, and you’ll be tickled to see lions and tigers and bears roaming in their natural element, as well as elephants, giraffes, cheetahs and more. Education programs are also offered — learn how Wildlife Safari supports endangered species in the heart of Oregon.
about author Kim Cooper Findling
Kim Cooper Findling grew up on the Oregon Coast and became a Central Oregon girl in the mid-90s, taking in the sunny skies and never looking back (except a few wistful glances at the ocean). She is the editor of “Cascade Journal” and the author of “Bend, Oregon Daycations: Day Trips for Curious Travelers,” "Day Trips From Portland: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler” and “Chance of Sun: An Oregon Memoir.” Catch her around the state sampling microbrews, hiking river trails, walking beaches, and hanging out with her family. www.kimcooperfindling.com
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