As part of our Winter Trip, my friend and I stayed over in Medford, Oregon, specifically to drive the Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway. Even though some rain was expected, we knew the 172-mile drive southeast from Roseburg back to Medford was going to be impressive. The route leaves I-5 in Roseburg on Highway 138, then follows Highway 230 and Highway 6 back towards Medford.
This route is labeled “scenic” because it travels through a national forest and past countless bodies of water, major rivers, and numerous waterfalls within hiking distance; at some places, remnants of the area’s volcanic past are also evident. The multi-highway route was first named a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1990. It was then upgraded to an Oregon State Scenic Byway in 1997 and finally named a National Scenic Byway in 2002. The beauty of the drive is evident from the road, but there are also stops along the way to explore—and hikes for those who are interested.
We first explored the colliding rivers area. It was raining a bit, but my friend still went exploring.
The colliding rivers location offers a view of the unique geologic phenomenon where the North Umpqua River and the Little River collide. This is the only place in the world where two rivers meet head-on like this.
The lingering fog along the route was beautiful and gave the landscapes an eerie mysterious feel.
We also explored the bridge and trailhead at the Swiftwater Recreation Area. My friend explored river views from both sides of the bridge in the parking area. The deep turquoise color of the water is beautiful and typical.
Volcanic activity played a big part in sculpting this whole area, so I appreciated seeing lava remnants along the road.
We spotted this fun little waterfall—right beside the road. My bet is that winter’s extensive rains helped this waterfall erupt.
Throughout the day, we also marveled at the lichen on trees and moss on some rocks–just beautiful!
About halfway along the route, we initially missed the turn onto Highway 230. That left us continuing on Highway 138 for about 15 miles. It was a desolate snow-impacted route. It looked as if the snowplow had been through relatively recently. Once we realized we needed to turn around, we noticed that no roads or parking areas off the main highway had yet been cleared. GPS kept saying, turn right on this road, and all we saw was a snow-covered field. Once we found one plowed turn-around spot, we headed back to the hotel.
Once we were back at the hotel watching the news, we heard that the area had been heavily impacted by snow the day before. There were even several accidents. No wonder no one else was on the road. Again, we felt very lucky to have avoided such bad weather.
We were also thrilled that we had, had another great day. Since we did not fully finish the scenic drive, we need to plan another trip in this area. Sounds great to me!