The 60 miles between Roseburg and Toketee Falls provide a fascinating, scenic landscape, not to mention a great coffee spot.
Story by Bentley Gilbert, Photos by Thomas Boyd
We begin our tour with a scenic route “less traveled.” Head north from Roseburg on Stephens Street for about nine miles to Wilbur (or from Interstate 5, take the Umpqua Community College exit and head north).
Turn onto North Bank Road and head east.
Mere yards from the intersection, on the right, is the historic Wilbur United Methodist Church.
Continue along this route — up hills, down dales, around curves and through groves of trees — for five miles to the recently upgraded west entrance of North Bank Habitat Management Area. The area has miles of strenuous trails, and the many and varied birdsongs show this is significant avian habitat.
Sheep by the dozen, and of all ages, dot the hills. The North Umpqua River will be on the right. Several turn-outs enable you to stop safely and take in the scene, holding it in your mind’s eye or in a photo. When North Bank Road crosses the North Umpqua and reaches Oregon 138, we turn left and head east again toward Glide.
Traveling up the North Umpqua, now on our left, we pass through much of historical, geological or recreational interest. Just as we enter Glide, we stop at Colliding Rivers, a well-interpreted rare geological phenomenon that occurs where the North Umpqua River and the Little River meet head-on.
Nearby, the North Umpqua Ranger Station provides many maps you will want for the rest of the trip as well as information on conditions ahead.
Before leaving Glide, head up Little River Road to the picturesque Cavitt Creek covered bridge. Built in 1943, its design allows log trucks with high loads to cross the stream.
Return to Glide, then head east again on Oregon 138. Just past Idleyld Park, pull off at the Narrows Wayside for stunning views of the North Umpqua. There are plenty to be had, and this is just the first.
Just beyond, the Swiftwater Bridge leads to the lower trailhead of the North Umpqua Trail, a 79-mile path that ends at Maidu Lake at 5,630-feet elevation, a gain of 4,800 feet from the trailhead’s elevation. But you need hike only about a quarter-mile to see Deadline Falls. You’ll learn about the steelhead and salmon that are so important to the region’s culture, economy and recreation.
Well-marked North Umpqua trailheads punctuate this drive seven more times, generally 3.5-5.5 miles apart. The two longest stretches between trailheads are 15 and nine miles, respectively.
Take special note of Susan Creek Falls on the left side of the highway, approximately midway between the Swiftwater and Wright Creek trailheads. Here a well-tended, smooth, wide, wheelchair- accessible path runs for just under a mile to the scenic 50-foot waterfall. A picnic area is nearby.
Thirty miles down the road, Toketee Falls is just 200 steps round- trip to the viewing area. Here you will find a double-tiered falls that drops 120 feet over walls of columnar basalt. The upper falls is 40 feet, the lower an 80-foot plunge.
Basalt is a common indicator of the volcanic activity that created the Cascade Range. Crater Lake is just 40 miles to the southeast. In the Chinook jargon of the Pacific Northwest First Peoples, “toketee” means “pretty” or “peaceful,” which also describes the falls. (See In a Manner of Speaking for an explanation of Chinook jargon.)
At the parking lot adjacent to the trailhead is a wooden, 12-foot diameter pipeline, that diverts much of the North Umpqua River water to a powerhouse downstream. Watch out for streams of water squirting from the pipe’s numerous leaks.
River water to a powerhouse downstream. Watch out for streams of water squirting from the pipe’s numerous leaks.
Now it’s time for your return trip. If you weren’t energized enough by the trip and scenery, stop in Glide at the Atom Espresso and Coffee Bar for a jolt of great coffee.
Owned by photographer Jody Brown, the shop’s decor will take you back. A record from a shelf of vinyl that spans an entire wall might be playing as you chat or simply sit and sip your drink.
The coffee bar’s restful ambience creates a great place to reflect on your excursion.
Brown (above) came to the area in 2012 and was seeking a way to draw people to her photography studio.
Her shop “sells a feeling,” she says. Her goal is to make people feel comfortable, and she succeeds with a hip, upscale, urban vibe expressed by everything from the Elvis coasters on the tables to her large black- and-white photos displayed on the walls.
“People love the atmosphere here,” she says. “It’s become a destination and a place to talk about what they’ve seen.”
It’s a perfect place to rest after hiking to the North Umpqua’s several “thundering waters.”
The Atom Espresso and Coffee Bar is on the north side of Oregon 138 at the east end of Glide, just before the bridge.