The Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) is a National Recreation Trail that closely follows the Rogue River for about 47 miles from its headwaters at Boundary Springs in the northwest corner of Crater Lake National Park to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area outside Prospect, Oregon. The trail can be day hiked in sections between readily accessible trailheads. Today we finished the last section – from River Bridge Campground to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area – of our effort to hike the entire length of the #1034, section by section. As with a previous section, we again went from south to north to accommodate a hike & bike approach.
We turned east off Highway 62 on to Forest Road 6210 (mostly good gravel) going toward the River Bridge Campground for a short distance to its junction with FR 6210-050, where we hid the bike. Then we backtracked south on Highway 62 and turned west on a gravel road to the North Fork Dam Recreation Area (parking, picnic tables, and a pit toilet). This turn is about 100 yards south of the Forest Service Ranger Station, at mile post 43, and across from where the road from Prospect junctions with Highway 62. There is a sign for the recreation area but it’s barely visible from Highway 62. There is no trailhead sign for the #1034 here so we just headed north past the toilet through the picnic area until we came on what looked like a trail and where we found a tiny “trail” sign high on a tree.
The North Fork Recreation Area sits next to the North Fork Diversion Reservoir, which is part of the Prospect Nos. 1, 2, and 4 Hydroelectric Project, now owned and operated by PacifiCorp (history). This project, whose genesis dates back to 1902, consists of three concrete diversion dams located on the Middle Fork Rogue River, Red Blanket Creek, and the Rogue River. All of this infrastructure is barely visible from Highway 62.
The net result of the dam is that the half mile or so of the #1034 heading north follows along the slack water of the reservoir, which allowed for some impressive reflections in the morning’s light.
We knew we were coming to the end of the reservoir when we started hearing rapids in the river. It was also at this point where the trail moved from being next to the river and up on to a bluff about 100 feet above it.
So, for the next three miles or so, while we could hear these rapids, we could rarely see them or the river itself. Very infrequently, we’d catch a glimpse of a rapid through the trees. Unlike other sections of the #1034, which often go right along the river, this one pretty much keeps you away from it except at the beginning and end, and with one exception in the middle.
About a mile beyond the dam, the trail heads away from the river to avoid crossing private land. This was a river-free, but pleasant, walk through a forest.
Every once in awhile we’d have to negotiate our way around a fallen tree but, overall, this section was in great condition. There was no evidence of recent maintenance but then it didn’t seem to have suffered much in last winter’s snow and wind storms.
Past the private property, the trail ambles back west to the bluff overlooking the river, where occassional openings in the trees let us catch a glimpse of it.
As we’ve noted before, signage on the #1034 is usually pretty sparse – most just say “trail” and you have to figure out what that means – and what there is seems to date back to an earlier, more trail-friendly, era. You can tell that signage is old when it’s being eaten by a tree!
We were beginning to despair that we wouldn’t be able to visit the river again when we passed an old road (FR 6210-508) about 1.5 miles below River Bridge Campground. We followed it down toward the river to find a large informal campsite and easy river access.
Immediately upstream of the campsite is a large rapid, one that works its way around a sharp bend in the river.
We had a snack here before going back up on to the #1034 and continuing north, through splotches of Fall colors provided by dogwoods and maples.
In the last mile or so before River Bridge, there were more openings in the trees and we could catch a view of a rapid now and then,
and then the #1034 came back down next to the river.
Shortly thereafter, the drainage widened and opened up,
the #1034 got over taken by some user roads to informal campsites,
then River Bridge itself came into view,
and then we had finished the last section of the Upper Rogue River Trail!
The anti-climax of this almost 5-year, 40+ mile journey was a walk up FR 6210 to retrieve the bike and then a fun, mostly downhillish, ~5 mile ride on OHV Trail #3 back to the truck at the North Fork Dam.
Then it was a drive back up Highway 62 to retrieve the LovedOne and then on to Beckie’s in Union Creek for celebratory slices of pie! Most of our section hikes of the #1034 have involved pie and, now that it’s done, we’ll have to find other hikes near Union Creek that also deserve pie – a challenge we’re more than willing to accept!