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  • The North Umpqua — beautiful all year long

    Hiking short trails to this area's waterfalls is a delight even in late autumn if you prepare yourself for changeable weather
  • I am not one who gives up easily on autumn. Even after the sky turns leaden for days at a time and rain turns the yellow and gold leaves of alders and maples to mush underfoot, I cling to every vestige of color I can find.
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    • For more information
      The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have cooperated on an excellent series of pamphlets for the North Umpqua River area that include easy-to-read maps.
      "The Rogue-Umpqua Sceni...
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      For more information
      The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have cooperated on an excellent series of pamphlets for the North Umpqua River area that include easy-to-read maps.

      "The Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway" brochure shows you the whole forest loop. Another, called "Thundering Waters," describes and gives directions to the main waterfalls near and just off Highway 138. It includes short, useful descriptions of different kinds of waterfalls. A third, called "North Umpqua Trail," has information on the 79-mile river path through the forest.

      There also are three books I've used and recommend for additional details on the falls: "Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest" by David L. Anderson, "A Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" by Gregory A. Plumb, and Bill Sullivan's "100 Hikes of Southern Oregon." Sullivan's doesn't mention all the falls, but he has more detailed descriptions on those the book does include than the other sources.

      You can get more information about the Umpqua National Forest at www.fs.fed.us/r6/umpqua. The North Umpqua Ranger District phone number is 541-496-3532 for information on conditions in the North Umpqua.
  • I am not one who gives up easily on autumn. Even after the sky turns leaden for days at a time and rain turns the yellow and gold leaves of alders and maples to mush underfoot, I cling to every vestige of color I can find.
    Even so, there comes a point in the season when traveling beyond the Rogue Valley makes me pause. Yet if you're willing to be adaptable and limit your forays to places where weather changes can be planned for, there's no reason not to try some weekend getaways nearby.
    One of those places is the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. This loop goes up I-5 to Roseburg, turns east onto Highway 138 along the North Umpqua River, then south on Highway 230 to connect with Highway 62 near the Rogue River and head back to Medford. The loop goes from an elevation of 400 feet to more than 5,000 feet, with the snow zone from November to April at about 2,500 feet. Along the way are many wonderful, short hikes.
    The important thing this time of year is not to insist on taking the whole loop, but only the parts that seem practicable. Although the road is kept open all year, it is icy and snowy off and on during the winter.
    When I explored part of the byway in late October, it snowed overnight at Diamond Lake, the first snowfall there of the season. But I was well below that section of the route in weather that was cool with a mix of sunshine and clouds and a smattering of light rain — no impediment to hiking.
    The most hiker-friendly and beautiful part of the loop in late fall, in my opinion, is along the North Umpqua River, which is surrounded by a lush forest of alders, bigleaf maples, western hemlocks, Douglas firs, western red cedars and sugar pines at the lower elevations and lodgepole pines, mountain hemlocks and western white pines at the higher ones.
    There is a 33-mile segment along this part of the river that is protected for fly-fishing enthusiasts, so the tourist traffic is more subdued than in other recreation areas in Southern Oregon because the river here is free of motorboats.
    The North Umpqua River Trail along this part of the byway stretches 79 miles from the Swiftwater Trailhead 22 miles east of Roseburg to Maidu Lake about 10 miles east of Diamond Lake as the crow flies. But the pleasure of that trail is better appreciated in the warmer months. Instead, there is a series of short hikes to a string of waterfalls that seem like sections of a jeweled braid, most of them not far from Highway 138. On these hikes, you won't be slogging through rain for very long if the weather turns sour.
    I started with Deadline Falls, where salmon and steelhead can be seen attempting to leap over the torrent on their way to spawning grounds in the river's upstream tributaries. Deadline Falls is wide and powerful, reached by turning south off Highway 138 at Swiftwater Bridge, then turning left into a trailhead parking area to catch the westernmost edge of the river trail. The viewpoint is not far along this trail. If you're ambitious, you can make your way closer by walking down a path and clambering over rocks to an outcrop at the top of the falls.
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