Day two of our Memorial Day weekend found us exploring Opal Creek Ancient Forest Wilderness Area. Just 2 hours out of Portland, this scenic area is a hidden gem! We’d visited once before and spent an afternoon hiking along the old mining roads to the small town (population 10) of Jawbone Flats. This weekend we hoped to spend more time exploring the surrounding areas of Santiam River….beautiful country – all of it!
We began our hike early Saturday morning and we were disappointed to see that the road to Jawbone Flats was closed due to construction. Apparently, winter rains and snow washed away some of the roads along the old tresses and had become unsafe. This was unfortunate because part of the appeal of the hike, in my opinion, was walking through the historic area of Jawbone Flats proper. Regardless, we made our way up the mountain side of the hike and found ourselves in the back area of the little town where all the old mining equipment is on display. Really, the only part of the town that was inaccessible was the area around the small cabins and information booth.
If you do this hike, be sure to look for the old sawmill on the right hand side of the road – a delapidated old building barely standing. If you veer right at this point, you’ll come to a spectacular waterfall. We almost missed this during our first trip, and had we not know it was there we would have missed one of the most scenic areas of the hike. The waterfall, known as Sawmill Falls is not signed and is easy to miss. If you come to the bridge where you turn to walk up the hillside, you’ve gone too far!
Once you’ve made your way through the Jawbone Flats area it’s just a short hike to Opal Pools. I assumed the pools were given the name because of the spectacular color, but apparently Opal was a named after the wife of a ranger in the area. Before that the area was known as Boulder Creek. Opal Creek is much more fitting though – don’t you think!
If you’re in the area, want an easy hike that the entire family can do – Opal Creek to Jaw Bone Flats will NOT disappoint!