It’s been 150 years since a train first whistled to a halt in Roseburg, an industrial feat that forever changed the city. Some things went boom and some things went bust, but over the decades, two truths still hold fast: Roseburg, with a quiet downtown surrounded by vibrant nature, still serves as a central base camp for easy day trips to the Coast, Crater Lake National Park and Diamond Lake. But it’s also a worthy stop on its own.
With a thriving arts scene, great food and wild rivers to choose from, here’s how to spend a weekend exploring the spirit of the heart of the Umpqua Valley.
Rivers, Culture and Industry
Get your bearings with a quick trip to the Roseburg Visitor Center, then head down to River Forks County Park north of downtown where the South Umpqua and the North Umpqua rivers merge into one. Famed as one of the best fisheries in Oregon, the Umpqua River here is more about picnic tables and a playground for the littles; on hot days, head south across the river to charming Singleton Park, where shade abounds.
The “Ump” — as some anglers call it — gets its name from the area’s first inhabitants, the Umpqua people and the Cow Creek Tribe, who long knew of the wealth of huckleberries, wild onions and blackcap raspberries in the area. The stunning Douglas County Museum, home to Oregon’s largest natural-history collection, tells part of that story with displays that showcase everything from prehistoric spear points to masterfully crafted woven baskets and quilts.
In addition to thousands of other artifacts that document the county’s story through the railroad and timber years — as well as 3,000 plant specimens — the museum unveiled a special exhibit in July 2022 on the history of wine in Douglas County. It explores the Umpqua region’s love for wine from the 1800s to today. Sorry, no samples, but the exhibit does include rare photographs of the Umpqua’s wine-selling steamship captains, as well as a 1967 bottle of pinot noir from HillCrest Vineyard, the first ever produced in Oregon’s world-renowned wine industry.
Explore Roseburg’s Creative Side
“Roseburg is full of great artists,” says Genell Garrett-Tuter, a Roseburg-based painter. “It’s exceptional, actually. They can do anything.”
See for yourself by finding Garrett-Tuter and 13 of her artist friends at Gallery Northwest, a decade-old collective studio, workshop space and gallery downtown. Look for artists like Peter Alsen, who creates fanciful creatures in crackling ceramics, and Judy Nigh with stunning large-format paintings made by scratching away at a canvas covered in multiple layers of paint.
Additionally, be sure to check out Umpqua Valley Arts and its five galleries, all housed in a former veterans hospital that was recently renovated. A new exhibit for summer 2022 called “Rural” showcases art from Oregon’s rural areas.
Wine, Beer and Farm-Fresh Food
You can’t talk about Roseburg without talking (more) about wine — and for good reason. Today about 40 wineries have sprung up in the Umpqua Valley since wine legend Richard Sommer launched HillCrest Vineyard in the early 1960s. And while it’s well worth the drive out to spectacular wineries like Abacela, Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards and, of course HillCrest Vineyard, you actually don’t have to leave downtown to find a fine glass of red.
Trella Vineyards, which started in 2011 at the base of the Callahan Mountains, has a tasting room set in a building from 1908. Swing by for glasses of tempranillo, pinot noir and whites like riesling, one of the first varietals to be planted in the area. Paul O’Brien Winery bills itself as the Umpqua Valley’s first urban winery by making syrahs, malbecs and a host of other bottles — all from dry-farmed grapes.
As for food, things have come a long way since the town’s namesake, Aaron Rose, and his family ran a tavern along the old Oregon-California Trail. There’s always the Saturday farmers market for picnic pickings. For brunch don’t miss the breakfast cheeseburgers and Denver omelets at the Parrott House, a renovated Victorian mansion with a bourbon bar and dinner service. Garrett-Tuter, the artist, loves the food at Alexanders Greek Cuisine, which serves pork souvlaki and fasolada soup alongside classics like the gyro.