Logging, church, and football are the lifeblood of Camas Valley, an unincorporated community in southwestern Oregon.
Camas Valley has a population of about 1,000 people, but according to John Wheeler, a retired forester and logger who has lived in Camas Valley since 1942, “If you got 150 people to show up in one place, that would be a big crowd.”
There are three churches in Camas Valley, one school and one grange. Since Camas Valley is unincorporated, there are no city laws and no police.
“We’re just a group of people who live in a community together,” says Wheeler. “Everybody knows everybody, and the church is really strong.”
The area’s biggest source of income is the timber industry, with many Camas Valley residents traveling about 20 miles to the Roseburg area to work in mills.
The Camas Valley Community Charter School still operates out of the original building that was constructed in 1928. The K-12 school has about 200 kids, some of which come from neighboring towns in order to participate in the school’s football program.
“People from all around want to come to Camas Valley because they have an excellent football team,” says Wheeler, who is proud to mention the school’s 2011 and 2012 state championships.
In Camas Valley, natural beauty abounds. Located in Oregon’s Coast Range, the community is surrounded by mountains and has the Coquille River running through it. In springtime, when the namesake Camas flowers are in bloom, the seven-mile-long valley is blanketed in purple.
“The fog often rolls over the mountains on the west side like a big, foamy ocean wave,” says Tina Fisher, the transportation supervisor for the Camas Valley Community Charter School.
If you want to do some natural exploring around Camas Valley, you won’t find directions in a guidebook.
“We have a lot of scenic things to do, but you need a local to show you how to get there,” says Wheeler.
Wheeler recommends visiting the Rock Creek caves, sandstone caves that are about 100 feet wide with waterfalls going over them. Hikers in the area have said that these geologic formations were only revealed when loggers thinned the forest in 2011. Ask for directions to the caves at the town’s Bravo Bakery & Cafe and the Market Plus gas station.
“Our small-town community is tight-knit and very supportive of each other,” says Fisher. “We welcome locals and newcomers alike, with a friendly, unpretentious attitude.”
Camas Valley is the second stop during this year’s Cycle Oregon Week Ride, which takes place September 10-17, 2016.