If you’re on the hunt for one more Oregon summer vacation destination, consider a place that feels a million miles away from city hub-bub, noise and everyday routine.
The Umpqua River Scenic Byway provides glimpses into a water lover’s playground. Across nearly two hundred miles, the riverway draws those who cast flies to big fish or those who grab paddles to tackle big whitewater waves.
Many folks are drawn to the quiet times down hiking trails that seem all yours to explore at places like Watson Creek Falls.
From the parking area, it’s little over a half mile hike up a long steady incline to reach the falls. A wooden bridge crosses Watson Creek and offers an excellent view of the stunning falls.
Watson Falls is the highest waterfall in southwest Oregon and the nearly 300-foot tall plunge-pool affair roars over a basalt lava cliff and flows into a shallow bowl below. It is worth a pause and a picnic lunch.
Leave the waterfall behind and continue a short 16 miles drive east to reach the gem of Oregon’s Cascades called “Diamond Lake.” It’s where anglers have “caught on” to a really good thing: plump and plentiful rainbow trout.
Laura Jackson, a fishery biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that back in 2006 it was a different story. Most aquatic life in Diamond Lake had nearly died from a takeover by a non-native fish species that had grown to number in the millions.
Someone had let loose a fish called “Tui Chub” in Diamond Lake and over the years the fish reproduced so fast, the prized rainbow trout didn't stand a chance.
“Back at that time,” noted Jackson, “Diamond Lake had an estimated 98 million Tui Chub. About 90 million of them were juveniles that couldn’t reproduce, but 8 million were reproductive so it really threw the lake’s eco-system out of balance.”
Diamond Lake was poisoned on purpose in 2006 with a common chemical pesticide called “Rotenone.”
Eleven boats spread hundreds of pounds of the chemical across each nook and cranny of the lake. Officials closed all access to the water for a time and the wait was worth it, added Jackson.
“The treatment in 2006 was followed by stocking 2007 and a little fingerling that we release in June or July will be 8 inches and catchable by August or September. Now, it’s a tremendous lake with a great fishery.”
Rick Rockholt has helped to manage the Diamond Lake Lodge and Resort over the past three decades and said that the trout turnaround has been remarkable.
“It has brought back many, many people who agree that the fishing is even better now than the good old days.”
Diamond Lake Resort owns a huge pontoon boat that was purchased from the leftover work boats that the state had employed in the chemical treatment project.
Now, it’s a guide boat and the folks who operate it furnish everything you need including rod, reel, worms and a bobber. It doesn’t take long to catch large trout.
The full service resort offers rental cabins for folks who enjoy an overnight stay and smaller rental boats so you can head out on the water.
If you are looking for shore side camping, Rockholt said that there are plenty of options to consider at nearby Forest Service campgrounds. “The US Forest Service has 450 campsites in three different campgrounds around the lake,” noted Rockholt. “Half of those can be reserved and the rest are first come, first serve, so you can usually find a place to camp here.”
Diamond Lake is an Oregon destination where unmatched Cascade Mountain scenery rules the scene and warm hospitality is king – it’s a timeless place perfect for building lasting family memories of camping time together in the great outdoors.