Until a week ago, we had never heard of the Opal Creek Wilderness. We stumbled upon a blog that displayed beautiful photos of the area and we knew we had to see it for ourselves.  Just an hour and a half out of Portland, this setting matches some of the most scenic territory we’ve ever visited. The colors of the water in this ecosystem seemed to us to be a cross between a tropical oasis and  geothermal pools that you’d expect to see in Yellowstone.

Sullivan Falls


From their website: The Opal Creek Valley contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles of hiking trails. It forms the largest intact stand of Old Growth Forest in the western Cascades and 500-1000 year old trees are common. There are eight trails in Opal Creek, totaling 36 miles. These are remnants of the early day prospecting and fire access routes. 

The old mine route is what makes this such a fun and unique hike! On your way to Jawbone Flats, the original mining town founded in 1839, you pass boarded up mine shafts and lots of old equipment that was left out in the forest. There’s a surprise around every bend, not to mention the scenic river that you walk along the entire way!

Walking along the old mine tracks

We think an old boiler now being reclaimed by nature

Old mine cars

What’s left of the old saw mill…on the banks of a spectacular falls…..

Saw Mill Falls

A pool adjacent to the falls…I couldn’t believe how clear the water was!

After a 3.5 mile hike you arrive at Jawbone Flats! There’s a lot to look at at this little town, (population 10), and then it’s just a short 10 minute hike to Opal Pools. From their website: Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, (a non-profit 501c 3 organization), was founded in 1989 as Friends of Opal Creek to gain protection of the Opal Creek watershed for future generations to study and enjoy, a goal we achieved in 1996. Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center maintains and stewards Jawbone Flats, a rejuvenated historic mining town in the heart of the 35,000-acre ancient forest watershed of the Opal Creek Wilderness and Scenic Recreation Area. We are located on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains, one hour east of Salem, Oregon and approximately two hours from Portland, two and a half from Eugene and three from Bend.


Outside the general store

We became supporting members and picked up a couple of nifty t-shirts

Old fire truck still chained up

Glimpse from the past

The still working power house

Just a 10 minute walk over this bridge to the pools

Finally we arrived at our destination. The weather was overcast which made for nice waterfall photos and the water color was magnificent…I keep wondering what the water color would have looked like on a sunny day!

The pools above the falls!

Crystal clear water

Opal Falls

Swimming hole located at the bottom of the falls

A close up…you can see just how clear the water is

We hiked back through the old growth forest, through fields of wildflowers and blueberries. I won’t lie….had my eyes scanning for bears the entire time!

Flowers along the way

View of the opal waters through the trees

Walk through the old growth

Our spot where we stopped and had lunch…Wow!

Back to camp…the best campground we’ve stayed at yet! Fisherman’s Bend Campground is run and operated by the BLM…all the beauty and privacy of federal campgrounds with electricity!!! We stayed in site R8 which we thought was one of the most beautiful in the park. The park itself is quite large but most of the campsites are off the river on a first come first serve basis. Only 12 campsites are located riverfront and may be reserved online. Most are for tent campers or small, small trailers :)We were the big guy as we were parked next to 2 teardrop trailers!

An immaculate campsite next to the river…they even rake the gravel!

Fresh, minty mojitos after a long hike…what a treat!

Ready to enjoy a quiet campfire!

Tucked in the trees…we really liked it here!


It was also our 18th wedding anniversary…what a way to celebrate!

A wonderful 18 years together…and it just keeps getting better!

We’ve already made reservations to return!