Southern Oregon’s Umpqua River Byways are blessed with waterfalls, wildlife and camping opportunities.
They are roadways once traveled you may never want to leave!
The first, Rogue-Umpqua River Scenic Byway, reaches high into the Oregon Cascade Mountains with pleasant surprises at every turn.
Many begin their adventures at Diamond Lake, often called a “Jewel of the Cascades” because it offers plenty of camping elbow room to spread out and play, while fishermen cast for rainbow trout at one of the finest lakes in the state.
But that’s not always been the case – in fact, for much of the past decade, it was quite a different story and according to the experts, Diamond Lake nearly died.
Someone had let loose a fish called “Tui Chub” into Diamond Lake sometime in the early 1990’s. Over the years, the fish reproduced so fast that the prized rainbow trout didn't have a chance.
ODFW Fish Biologist Laura Jackson said that the population of chub soared at the expense of all other aquatic life:
“Diamond Lake had an estimated 98 million chub in 2006. About 90 million of them were small juveniles that couldn’t reproduce, but about 8 million were reproductive. So it really threw the lake’s eco-system out of balance.”
So following a complex and lengthy process, the lake was poisoned on purpose in 2006 with a chemical pesticide called “Rotenone.”
At that time, it was a huge undertaking as 11 boats spread hundreds of pounds of the chemical in just 8 hours.
The lake closed for a time, but the wait was worth it because today, Diamond Lake has been restored.
“The fishing’s been really good with limits the rule, said Rick Rockholt, spokesperson for Diamond Lake Resort. “We’ve seen a lot of people catching limits, a lot of people catching big fish so there’s good fishing opportunity. Diamond Lake is back.”
The full service resort offers rental cabins for folks who wish to enjoy an overnight stay and rental boats for those who head to the water and play.
Plus, there are more than 450 U.S. Forest Service campsites at three different campgrounds – many offer shore side camping.
“They are really nice campsites too,” noted Rockholt. “Nice grass and trees, flush toilets and running water. They’re very well maintained.”
“There’s fishing, hiking, mountain biking – many folks have discovered that there is a paved path all the way around the lake that’s about 12 miles long.”
He added, "Diamond Lake is at the apex of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway – from here, you can go down the North Fork of the Umpqua River corridor and visit the waterfalls on the way down into the world-famous blue ribbon fly fishery.”
There’s nearly two hundred miles of byway where the river is often by your side and provides glimpses into a water lovers playground that’s hard to avoid.
From those who cast flies for big fish to those who grab paddles to tackle big waves …and then there are the quiet times for those ready to explore less traveled trails to spectacular waterfalls.
The Umpqua-Rogue Scenic Byway is blessed with a variety of hiking trails and many of those lead to spectacular waterfalls including Watson Creek Falls.
The trail is a half-mile long that is uphill for the most part, but the good news is that it is all downhill on the way back to your vehicle. Be sure to bring your camera.
This mountain byway unwinds to become another scenic route, the Umpqua Scenic Byway, west of Roseburg, that delivers you toward the coastline along the main Umpqua River.
Be prepared for something special off Oregon State Highway 38: at first glance, what appears to be dancing antlers across the grassy fields of the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. But take another look and enjoy a resident herd of Roosevelt Elk.
The site encompasses 1,040 acres, is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It is managed with public viewing and education with an information kiosk at the O.H. Hinsdale Interpretive Center that offers information about Oregon's elk and the environment of the Dean Creek area as well as spotting scopes to enhance viewing.
There are also free brochures that tell you the story of the elk and the surrounding area.
It’s a can’t-miss photo opportunity where elk are so close you’ll want to have your camera at your side.
In addition, there is a three-mile viewing area with strategically placed pullouts.
The herd of 60 to 100 Roosevelt elk roams freely in the protected pasture, woodland, and wetland areas, sharing their habitat with other wildlife including bald eagles, Canada geese, beaver, and black-tailed deer.
The two Umpqua Scenic Byways offer roadways reaching from the coast to the Cascades and are filled with adventures for you to explore anytime.