See old-growth, National Creek Falls on short trail
November 17, 2006
By BILL KETTLER
A short trail on the road to Diamond Lake gives hikers a look at some giant old-growth trees and a noisy waterfall.
National Creek Falls (No. 1053) is the perfect destination for a holiday outing with the family. It’s not too far to drive; it’s not too far to walk; and the scenery is spectacular, at least for anyone who likes big trees and waterfalls.
The half-mile trail passes spectacular old-growth Western hemlocks and Douglas firs as it switchbacks down to the base of National Creek. Some of the trees run 5 to 6 feet in diameter. If there’s an amateur dendrologist in your hiking party, he or she will be able to point out grand firs and Western white pine along the way, too.
The landscape gets wetter as you descend the creek’s narrow canyon, until at the base of the falls, there’s a perpetual thin mist in the air. With all the rain in early November, National Creek’s flow should be picking up, and fresh storms will make the falls even noisier.
The creek’s name reflects some of the local history. In the early part of the 20th century, the National Park Service was lobbying to expand the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park at the expense of what was then called the Crater National Forest. Four creeks were named, in succession, “Crater” “Lake” “National” and “Park.”
Park Creek was renamed Hurryon Creek after the Park Service lost its bid to expand the park, and Lake Creek became Bert Creek (named after a Forest Service worker). Crater Creek and National Creek retained their names.
Historian Jeff LaLande explains the stories behind the place names in his book “From Abbott Butte to Zimmerman Burn: A Place Name History and Gazetteer of the Rogue River National Forest,” which is available from the Jackson County Library System.
The creek pours down in a waterfall aficionados call a “segmented” fall. The flow divides into separate ribbons of water as it drops about 80 feet into a large pool.
To reach the trail, take Highway 62 east from Medford to Union Creek and Highway 230 north toward Diamond Lake. Near the Douglas County line, turn right on Forest Road 6530, also known as “County Line Road.”
Stay on Road 6530 for 1.3 miles; and bear left at a fork in the road to stay on 6530. Continue about 2.5 miles to a junction with Road 300. Turn right and drive to the trailhead.
The trail stays open as long as snow levels remain above 4,500 feet. It’s worth a call to the Prospect Ranger District (560-3400) to check on road conditions before you make the trip. After winter settles in, the roads won’t be plowed.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org