Upper Rogue River Trail (Foster Creek to Big Bend) 07-May-2016

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

This section of the #1034 was in poor shape in 2016 and recent reports say that it’s still a wreck. Expect slow-going and navigation challenges.

The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from near its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside of Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads.  Today we did the short (~7 mile) Foster Creek to Big Bend section and allowed for slow going due to winter storm damage and limited trail maintenance.

We parked one car at the Big Bend trailhead along Forest Road (FR) 6510 about one mile off Highway 230 and were planning to park the other car a mile up  FR 6530, also off of Highway 230, and walk the short ways to the actual trailhead.  But we found FR 6530 still closed due to fallen trees for as far along it as we could see.  So we had to park on Highway 230, right at the trailhead.  All those fallen trees on FR 6350 were an omen – one we blithely ignored.  The sad condition of the sign at the trailhead was yet another omen – also ignored.  To be fair, trail maintenance in this area doesn’t really get going until early June but we could tell from the start that this section of trail hadn’t seen much maintenance for quite a while.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
The trail just past the trailhead: visible but well raveled

Yet, if we remained vigilent, we could pick out the tread fairly well and were able to follow it down to an anticipated wet crossing of Foster Creek, just before the creek enters the Rogue.  By judiciously scouting out shallow areas and gravel bars, we were able to wade across without mishap.  [Note: This creek is much smaller in mid-summer; a simple walk-across.]

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Fording Foster Creek

One thing this section of trail gives you – beyond navigation practice and a full body workout – are views of the Upper Rogue that you’re not going to get from any other location. This is a “quiet” section of the river – all the tourist-exciting falls and roaring chasms are further downstream – and it’s humbling to watch masses of water glide past in silence.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
The Rogue River just below Foster Creek
Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
…and a little further downstream

We’re pretty much past the snow season now at this altitude but there were a few patches right on the trail (of course).

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
A little snow on the trail

This snow wasn’t an issue except where it held the cougar tracks – which seemed to be going directly along the trail we were following. That, along with seeing a hardy bear poop about every mile, kept us a little on edge with respect to encounters with wildlife. We also found (and carried out) some discarded Coors cans – indicative on yet another kind of “wildlife” (or idiots – our preferred term for trash-spewing vandals).

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Cougar tracks!

There were places were the river’s winter flows had done the job of scouring away the bank, toppling whole trees into the current.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
“If a tree falls in the forest (or river)…”

The topo map showed several footbridges along the trail, presumably crossing tributary creeks or boggy areas that we might otherwise have to wade across. We were soon disabused of the idea that we could count on these bridges being where the map said they were – this one had been blown clean out of the channel it was crossing!

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
A bridge too far…

In some places, the trail had really suffered and was only discernible if you really, really looked for it.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Somewhere along here there’s a trail

But just when we would start getting a little discouraged about trail conditions, we’d get another unique view of the river, this one of the eroded pumice bluffs from the pumice avalanche that buried the Rogue’s channel during the eruptions of Mt. Mazama.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Pumice bluffs from above
Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Pumice bluffs from below

So we continued, passing over (or often around) yet more badly abused bridges,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Fallen on hard times in the forest

and a trillium with insect visitors.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
A study in black and white on white

There were a few nice, carefree stretches of trail – you could see that, back in the day, it must have been an easy cruise along the river, but these days we had to sometimes crawl through the blowdown,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
100 feet wide and too tall to climb over – so we tunneled

or up and around were a falling tree’s rootball had exploded the tread.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Death of a tread by rootball

But then, a another soothing view of the Rogue (sigh),

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Another soothing view of the Rogue

followed by another (unexpected) wading opportunity. We could tell by the remnant abutments that a footbridge had once been here but probably was carried away downstream at some point in the past. There was some concern that that water was deeper than The LovedOne was tall but she made it across – but we were NOT pegging the fun meter on this one.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Cold, deep, and unexpected

A little further along, we came to a massive logjam stretching across the river and several hundred yards downstream. Reportedly a great place to find cutthroat trout.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

About 5 miles from the trailhead, we reached on open area of informal, seemingly drive-in campsites where an abandoned 0.5 mile trail (looks more like a road) goes west to the old Brown’s Cabin trailhead. Brown’s Cabin was the site of an early day Forest Service ranger station. It took some searching to find the continuation of the #1034 as it ducked off the bluff (under a solid cover of ravel, fallen limbs, and large trunks) to continue along the river.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
The Rogue downstream of Brown’s Cabin site.

Another suffering bridge to cross,

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Twisted but still standing…

and we were in the home stretch to the Big Bend trailhead. Fortunately this piece of the trail (from Brown’s to Big Bend) was in good shape and mostly free of ravel or blowdown – which was a welcome change from what we’d dealt with for most of the previous 6 miles. One last look at the river and the hike was over.

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
One last look at the placid Rogue

We managed to cover 7.7 miles on this section, with very little elevation gain (~200 feet). It was definitely worth doing, if for no other reason than those unique views of the pumice bluffs. But the going was slow – 6 hours to cover those miles – well off our usual pace – Oh, hindsight, where art thou sting! It was also pretty discouraging to see that a National Recreation Trail, along a National Wild & Scenic River, had slipped into such disrepair.  If the High Cascades Ranger District doesn’t get on this pretty soon, you can say good-bye to this section of the #1034 (and eventually the #1034 itself) – it’s also worrisome that this section is not on their website. So, with sadness once again creeping up on us, we stopped at Beckie’s Cafe in Union Creek to pick up one of their justifiably famous (and totally delicious!) pies to take home with us. Nothing like a piece of pie to banish that sadness (and maybe launch an epic poem)!

Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon
Map of our track along the Foster Creek – Big Bend section of the #1034 trail

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