For more than 100 years before Shady Cove was incorporated in 1972, the cove from which the town derived its name was a natural shelter for travelers.
The shady cove is a nook in a Rogue River bank about 300 yards upstream from a bridge at Highway 62 in town. Driving north on Highway 62 from Medford, a gravel road on the right before the bridge leads to the cove.
In the 1800s, "'shady cove' was used as a description rather than a name," said Jim Collier, president of the Upper Rogue Historical Society.
It is unknown exactly when people started referring to the river bend as "the cove" or "shady cove."
Two entrepreneurs were the first to officially use the name, attaching it on a development of vacation cabins they platted along the cove in the first quarter of the 20th century.
Before it became a summer getaway for mostly Medfordites, it served as a place to loll or camp while waiting for a ferry at a nearby crossing on the river.
Some accounts date the ferry crossing to the mid-1800s when it was used to commute between gold camps at Jacksonville and John Day in Eastern Oregon.
But the crossing was likely used for a variety of reasons, including traveling between Trail and Eagle Point, Collier said.
Ham Watkins, a ferry operator, is believed to be the first white man to live at the cove.
During his time, pine and oak trees covered the flat in the cove, perhaps the origin of the "shady" in Shady Cove.
A house was built there in 1910.
Later in the first quarter of the 20th century, two entrepreneurs, including Herman "Jake" Powell, platted the flat in the cove for a summer home and recreational development. People bought lots and built cabins to enjoy the river during the summer heat.
"It was beautiful," said Clara Beth Doe, 89, Powell's daughter. "There was a stairway to the river and trails. We spent all our summers there when I was growing up."
Over time, people abandoned their cabins.
"It started to fade away," Doe said. "The pathways washed away. The beautiful beach became overgrown."