Santiam Canyon

Wilderness and Parks

Opal Creek


Photo by Nickpdx taken on 01:26, 6 September 2006 

The Opal Creek Wilderness is a wilderness area located in the Willamette National Forest and on the border of the Mount Hood National Forest. It has the largest uncut watershed in Oregon.  Opal Creek and nearby Opal Lake were named for Opal Elliot, wife of early US Forest Service ranger Roy Elliot.  The Opal Creek Valley contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles of hiking trails.  A free, self-issued wilderness permit is available at the trailheads. The Northwest Forest Pass is required at the trailheads along Road 2209 and at the gate parking area (  It forms the largest intact stand of old growth forest in the western cascades: 500-1000 year old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas Fir, Western Redcedar, and Western Hemlock.  Common hardwoods include big leaf maple and red alder. The understory vegetation is composed mainly of huckleberry, vine maple, and rhododendron( 

Legislation designating the Opal Creek Wilderness and the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area was passed in 1996 and established November 1998.  The Opal Creek Wilderness is 20,827 acres and includes the 8,000 acres of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness that is located within the Willamette National Forest Boundary.  The Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area is 13,538 acres.  Elkhorn Creek is designated as a Wild and Scenic River (

Willamette Nat’l Forest

The Willamette National Forest stretches for 110 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Range in western Oregon. It extends from the Mt. Jefferson area east of Salem to the Calapooya Mountains northeast of Roseburg. The Forest is 1,675,407 acres in size.

The Willamette National Forest is named after the Willamette River, which begins on the Forest ( (The “Wallamt” was the Indian name for a place on the river near Oregon City.) (<;.).

The Willamette is one of the most diverse and productive forests in the National Forest System. It is a dynamic landscape shaped by the forces of nature, the people who work here, and the social and political influences of the communities around it. Perched on the crest of the Cascades, the land and waters have carved a rich environment for abundant wildlife and botanical wonders.

The diverse landscape yields a sustainable supply of timber, energy, special forest products and recreation opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the human community (<;.).

Most of the Forest is covered with Douglas-fir: a valuable timber species in the United States. At least 15 other conifer species are common on the Forest as well, including cedar, pine, hemlock, and several species of fir. Many parts of the Forest show the past effects of fire, insects, wind, and disease which are natural parts of forested ecosystems on the west side of the Cascades. The Willamette is host to over 300 species of fish and wildlife, including the northern spotted owl, northern bald eagle, wolverine, and several other sensitive and threatened species. Steelhead, bass, Chinook and kokanee salmon, and many kinds of trout are found in Forest lakes and streams which afford excellent fishing. Big game animals common on the Forest include Roosevelt elk, black bear, cougar, and black tailed and mule deer .

Seven major peaks of the Cascades — Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Diamond Peak, North, Middle and South Sisters — are within these wildernesses (

The goal of Willamette National Forest managers is to sustain ecosystems and supply society with the fullest range of values and benefits consistent with biological and physical conditions (<;.).

About one fifth, 380,805 acres of the Willamette National Forest are designated as wilderness. These include Opal Creek, Mount Jefferson, Middle Santiam, Menagerie, Mount Washington, Three Sisters, Waldo Lake, and Diamond Peak Wilderness (

Silver Creek Falls State Park

Silver Falls City formed in 1888 and was primarily a logging community with a few homesteaders, and the area was extensively logged. By 1900 a Silverton photographer June Drake began to campaign for park status, using his photographs of the falls to gain support. In 1926, however, an inspector for the National Park Service rejected the area for park status because of a proliferation of unattractive stumps.

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the Silver Falls area would be turned into a Recreational Demonstration Area. Private land that had been logged was purchased, and workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps were employed to develop park facilities, including the historic South Falls Lodge, completed in the late 1930s.

There are 10 waterfalls within Silver Creek State Park and the a variety of recreation: 24 miles of walking trails, 14 miles of horse trails, and a 4 miles of bike path, camping, and swimming.

Currently, Silver Creek Falls is being considered for being designated as a national park. A house bill is being debated over through the Oregon Legislative Assembly.  The bill may eventually urge federal support of Silver Fall State Park to become a National Park (

Mount Jefferson

Aerial view, Mount Jefferson, Oregon, as seen from the west.
USGS Photograph taken on December 8, 2005, by Mike Doukas.

Mt. Jefferson was named in honor of US President Thomas Jefferson by the Lewis & Clark Expedition. This was the only High Cascade mountain they named. The expedition, which was sponsored by President Jefferson, first saw the peak from the mouth of the Willamette River in March 1806.

Jefferson’s peak is the highest point in Linn and Jefferson Counties, and a point on its north ridge at 9,000 feet (2,700 m) is the high point of Marion County.

Mount Jefferson is within the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area of the Willamette National Forest and is the second-highest mountain in Oregon. Situated in the far northeastern corner of Linn County about 60 miles (97 km) east of Corvallis, Jefferson is in a rugged wilderness and is thus one of the hardest volcanoes to reach in the Cascades though USFS road 1044 does come within 4 miles (6.4 km) of the summit. Many people consider Jefferson’s craggy, deeply glacially-scarred appearance to be especially beautiful and photogenic. The peak has therefore frequently served as a backdrop for automobile and alcohol advertisement in the United States (<;.).

Detroit Lake Reservior

Oregon State Parks offers camping at Detroit Lake State Park. Mongold day use area has a large developed boat launch facility and is located 1.5 miles west of the town of Detroit.  Numerous campgrounds exist along the shoreline and within close proximity to the lake. Some of these campgrounds provide accessible camping and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities. There is one small boat-in campground located on Piety Island and there are two forest service day use sites located on the lakeshore; Detroit Flats and Upper Arm. There are also floating toilets provided for the use of boaters. Please take advantage of these facilities to keep Detroit Lake clean and inviting.

Besides community events throughout the year, Detroit Lake offers a variety of activities such as fishing, boating, sailing, swimming, picnicking, camping and wildlife viewing.  Several varieties of water fowl can be seen at the lake, including Osprey and Bald Eagles which can be observed fishing.  Nearby activities include hiking trails and the West Cascades Scenic Byway (

Detroit Lake is stocked by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with 125,000 catchable rainbow trout, kokanee and chinook salmon and has a self-sustaining population of brown bullhead catfish. The United States Forest Service also maintains recreation facilities at the lake (

Another characteristic of Detroit Lake is Piety Island which sits beautifully in the center of the reservior.  The island is operated by the US Forest Service and offers camping facilities such as pit toilets, tables, fire grills, garbage collection, and uncut firewood and driftwood available on island.  NO drinking water is available on the island.  One can get to the island by boat (or by walking, permitting water levels are low enough [usually summer months only].  Walking is not recommended because the water level can rise and leave you stranded.)  12 tent sites are availabe year round.  There is a day use area and other camping areas that have a 14 day limit and there no fees for the campground.  The elevation of Piety Island is 1600 feet and usage is on a first come, first served.  No reservations are needed (


Breitenbush Hot Springs

Breitnenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center is located on the banks of the Breitenbush River in the Willamette National Forest, eleven miles northeast of the town of Detroit and is open for business year-round; although, it does close periodically.  Natural mineral water flows out of the wells and springs at temperatures up to 180 degrees.  Tubs and pools are available to the public for day use and overnight guests.  Clothing is optional, unless requested by a workshop leader.  Also available at the site: Massage, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, vegetarian meals, cabins, and some camping areas (Gersh-Young, Marjorie).


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