South Shore Trail (Lost Creek Lake) 17-Jul-2018

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon

Lost Creek Lake is a 3,340 acre (when full) reservoir operated by the U.S. Corp of Engineers. It’s situated on the main stem of the Rouge River in a scenic valley basin approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. The Corps calls the trails that go around the north and south shores of the lake, as well as the trail that goes northeast up the Rogue River from Peyton Bridge, the “Rogue River Trail”, even though that name is usually reserved for the iconic trail that runs along the Rogue between Grave Creek and Foster Bar. Anyway, we’ve hiked the “North Shore Trail” before, particularly in the Spring when the Blue Grotto is in full flow. We touched on a piece of the “South Shore Trail” as part of a loop over Viewpoint Mike last year but had yet to hike all of it.  So, despite smoke from numerous lightning-sparked wildfires clouding an atmosphere whose temperature was pushing above 100ºF, today seemed as good a time as any to try that hike.  The LovedOne begged to differ, opting instead to do the library friends taxes in air conditioned comfort while muttering something about no fool like an old fool as I headed out the door.

While the dam, reservoir, and the North Shore Trail are the Corps responsibility, most of the South Shore Trail runs through Joseph Stewart State Park, which includes a picnic area, campground, marina, and floating dock. I parked at the Spillway boat ramp and headed east on the trail, which is dirt from here to the Medco A boat ramp. The heat started to build as soon as I left the trailhead,

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Starting off on the South Shore Trail

and the air had that piquant taint of old campfire as smoke from nearby wildfires infiltrated the lake basin.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Wildfire smoke creeps over the lake

I soon passed Rumley Falls, which was pretty thin today,

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Rumley Falls

but which gushes delightfully in the Spring and even forms a lower falls when the lake is drawn-down in winter.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Rumley Falls during Spring runoff
South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lower Rumley Falls (and folded basalt columns) appear when the lake level is low in the winter

The sun continued to rise,

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Along the trail

as did the heat,

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Feeling the heat here

and the smoke.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Pinkish smoke reaches the lake

About two miles from the trailhead, I entered the state park and reached the Medco A boat ramp. From here, the hiking trail (now paved) goes along the lake on the north side of the marina, past the floating dock, and over Lost Creek, which seemed to be flowing well despite the poor winter we had.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Lost Creek

The trail then crosses Floras Creek (a lot drier than Lost Creek), climbs above the lake, and comes to a junction – to the left is the hiking trail, to the right is a trail to the drive-in campground (but both trails eventually join with the Nature Trail). I went left and soon encountered the Nature Trail (with numbered stations) maintained by the state park. The best feature along here was Diamond Creek Falls, whose roar could be heard quite a distance down the trail. These falls are fed by underground stream channels and surface water and the creek ends at tiny Diamond Lake (with no direct connection to Lost Creek Lake).

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Diamond Creek Falls

The Nature Trail runs only as far as the end of the drive-in campground and then the hiking trail (still paved) continues past some huge meadows,

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
Expansive meadows along the hiking trail

to a junction with the much wider, paved bike path.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The bike path is more like a small road

I continued northeast on this to where it curves sharply back toward the campground and an unsigned single track trail turns off to the northeast. This single track is the trail to take if you want to reach the North Shore Trail – but you have to walk down Highway 62, and across the river on Peyton Bridge, to do that.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
The unsigned South Shore (hiking) Trail junction with Highway 62

After checking-out the end of the trail, I followed the bike path back past the big meadow, through the drive-in campground, and past the marina, to Picnic Area C near the marina, where I went off across the lawn to reconnect with the hiking trail near the lake. By now it was really hot and definitely time for this hike to end. Fortunately, most of this 11.2 mile hike (with 300 feet of elevation gain accumulated over lots of little ups and downs) was in the shade, so it was a good one despite the heat and the smoke.  Would be a lovely hike in the Fall when its cooler and the foliage is changing color.

South Shore Trail Lost Creek Lake Oregon
A lollipop loop along the South Shore Trail

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