Fall Up Fall Creek

November 3, 2009
Upper Fall Creek -

Upper Fall Creek

It had been raining and cold for the last couple weeks and it really seemed like we were having November or December in October! Finally a dry day came on a weekend and I was itching to get out and find a place to see some fall colors, breath the damp musty smell of the forest and feel the soft wet soil going squish, squish, squish on my boots. So Sunday November 1, 2009 I decided to explore Fall Creek as I hadn’t spent much time up there in almost 15 years.
I drove out Jasper Road along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River until I came to Little Fall Creek. Little Fall Creek is very scenic and has small farms nestle in the wooded hills along the creek. There are two old covered bridges on the Pengra (1938) and the Unity (1936) that are still in use today. The Unity bridge lets you cross over to Big Falls Creek a couple miles below the dam.

Pengra Covered Bridge on Little Fall Creek

Pengra Covered Bridge on Little Fall Creek

Little Fall Creek

Little Fall Creek

Unity Bridge on Littel Fall Creek

Unity Bridge on Littel Fall Creek

Big Fall Creek Below Dam

Big Fall Creek Below Dam

Fall Creek Reservoir is a 1,852 acre reservoir boasts 22 miles of forested shoreline. A multitude of coves and inlets provide ample opportunities for solitude. Popular with jet skiers and water skiers, Fall Creek Reservoir also offers good angling for stocked rainbow trout; bass and catfish are also present. Several nice campgrounds adjoin the lake including Cascara, a tent space tucked amongst a copse of Douglas firs. If you like to travel with your fifth wheel, there’s an RV camp just across the road at Fisherman’s Point. Five day-use areas are also available.
I stopped off to get a few good shots of the early sun coming thru the fog and see how much water was left in the Reservoir. As it fall the reservoir is kept very low so it can be used for flood protection. I could see people fishing in what was left of the lake and this is often very good as the fish population has to crowd into the small lake.

Top of Fall Creek Dam

Top of Fall Creek Dam

Fall Creek Reservoir

Fall Creek Reservoir

I drove around the dam, stopping to get a shot of the grassy flat lands in the bottom of the lake then took the main road up the upper section of Big Fall Creek. This is a State Recreational areas and there is more information on that here: http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_241.php  It wasn’t long before I came to a road sign that seem to list it all.

The Upper Arm of Fall Creek Reservoir

The Upper Arm of Fall Creek Reservoir

Just Above The Reservoir

Just Above The Reservoir

Where Are We

Where Are We?

My plan for the day was to hike a section of the Fall Creek Trail which runs along the opposite side of the river from the road. As they crisscross at the bridges it is easy to walk section of the 13.7 mile trail. As it had been years since I’d been up here I decided to drive up to the top, stopping at the parks and view points along the way, and hike the upper section downstream. It was a beautiful morning with the temperature just cool enough to make a light jacket feel good, the fog hugging the hills and whips of it in places along the creek. Ahhhh… it felt so good to be up in the hills again! I soon came to a sign with a map of a portion of this area.

Old Log and Pole Barn

Old Log and Pole Barn

Nice Log Cabin

Nice Log Cabin!

That Almost Looks Like The Smokies

That Almost Looks Like The Smokies!

Fall Creek Recreation Area Sign

Fall Creek Recreation Area Sign

I stopped at the lower end of the Fall Creek Trail just to take a peek at it’s condition and it looked well maintained.

Lower End of the Trail at Dolly Varden

Lower End of the Trail at Dolly Varden

In the middle of this recreational area there had been a fire several years ago. A history of this fire can be viewed here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/willamette/partnersites/eicc/clarkfire/clarkfirechronology.html Today there are still a lot of standing snags and grass and shrubs are back again. There are a few live trees along the creek and in isolated spots but for the most part it is more upland grasslands. Some sections of private timber company ownership have been replanted and the young trees are growing very fast.

Upper Fall Creek - Clark Burn Area

Upper Fall Creek - Clark Burn Area

Upper Fall Creek - Clark Burn Area 2

Upper Fall Creek - Clark Burn Area 2

The parks are closed for the winter with the gates locked so you can’t drive into them. I stopped at Clark Creek, Bedrock and Puma and walked around a bit. These are some very nice places to camp and I really like the big camp sites at Puma. Make you want to go home and get your camping gear and come stay for a while. Of course the creek is beautiful with many cascades and deep pools. I can see this must be some popular swimming holes in the summer.

Upper Fall Creek - at  Puma Campground

Upper Fall Creek - at Puma Campground

Camp site at Puma

Camp site at Puma Campground

Upper Fall Creek - Near Puma Campground

Upper Fall Creek - Near Puma Campground

Even though we had a frost not long ago, I was surprised to see a lot of mushrooms sprouting again. I immediately begin to keep and eye out for some delectable chanterelles. Wouldn’t that be great to find some late bloomers! On my way up to the upper trailhead above Puma Campground I stopped off to explore some likely place for good mushrooms. I saw right away that there had been a good crop that froze and that someone had been up here picking not long ago. I did manage to fill my hat with enough for a small meal. Maybe I’ll run into some more along the trail!

Thats Not The Right Ones

Thats Not The Right Ones!

Corral Mushrooms

Corral Mushrooms

Dinner Tonight

Yumm, Dinner Tonight!

There was nothing along the road to indicate the upper end of the trail but I turned off at a likely bridge and sure enough there was the sign and the trail.

Upper End of the Fall Creek Trail

Upper End of the Fall Creek Trail

The woodsy smell of fir trees, rotting leaves and musty earth was very welcomed as I started down the trail. The upper end of the trail is pretty narrow and much of it on steel side slopes. In places it hugs the hills and rocks closly. this is a very picturesque trail, with mossy trees, ferns, big rocks and huge cedar and Douglas fir trees.

Narrow Trail

Narrow Trail

Way Down There

Way Down There!

Trail - Steep Sidehill and Mossy Trees

Trail - Steep Sidehill and Mossy Trees

Stairs on Steep Sections

Stairs on Steep Sections

Many small creeks cross the trail and there are very new looking bridges at almost every crossing. (Isn’t that great! I could be wading or mucking across these creeks.) The longer one had nice had rails that made them feel much safer and with the slick rotting leaves it would be easy to take a spill. At several of the bridges there was the very distinctive smell of fresh cat spray. I finally did see one cat foot print in some mud at the edge of the trail. I’m guessing it was a Bobcat marking its territory.

Log Bridge on the Trail

Log Bridge on the Trail

A Small Tributary Creek

A Small Tributary Creek

Another new Bridge

Another new Bridge

I kept one eye on the trail and the scenic beauty and the other eye on the lookout for a chanterelle or two. I saw a lot of colorful mushroom and saw that someone had been hunting and picking not long ago. I did find a few good ones but they were pretty sparse and far between.

Young Wood Mushroom

Young Wood Mushroom

Thats the Right One

Thats the Right One!

In places there was some very nice old growth right along the trail. Wow, one of them was over 8 feet DBH (diameter breast high) and I could see others that were larger than that! You really begin to appreciate our forest when you stand next to a tree that could be 250 to 300 years old. I’m really glad the fire hadn’t reached here.

Look at the Size of That One

Look at the Size of That One

Deep Dense Forest Along Upper Fall Creek

Deep Dense Forest Along Upper Fall Creek

Light In The Forest

Light In The Forest

I crossed one bridge that had a huge log cut out on one end. Makes you feel pretty small.

Big Log and Log Bridge

Big Log and Log Bridge

Big Log and Log Bridge - Lets See That Again

Big Log and Log Bridge - Lets See That Again From The Other End

Some section of the creek were rushing cascades and in other places deep quiet pools.

A Quiet Section

A Quiet Section

I walked for about 2.5 to 3 miles before turning around. On such a nice day going back was hard to do. I did snag a few more chanterelles on the way back so now there may be enough for a couple meals. Yum! It had been another beautiful day in the woods with wonderful fall colors, tall trees, rushing water and some tasty ‘shrooms.

Listen To The Rushing Waters

Listen To The Rushing Waters

Upper Fall Creek - A Pretty Riffle

Upper Fall Creek - A Pretty Riffle

Upper Fall Creek - Along the Trail

Upper Fall Creek - Along the Trail

Enjoy the pictures and the adventure or better yet get on those boots and head for the hills.

Dennis

One More Peek At The Creek

One More Peek At The Creek

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