On our way to my wife’s home village in the northern Sierras of Plumas County, CA, we stopped to camp two nights at Collier Memorial State Park. This gave us a chance to do a few forays in the neighborhood.
Spring Creek is wide enough to be called a river as it gushes forth in full force at the base of a slope only two miles from its confluence with the Williamson River. We stopped first at the Fremont-Winema National Forest’s Oux Kanee Overlook for a sweeping look down to its crystal clear waters, and then drove to the picnic area/primitive campground at its “source.” In fact, Spring Creek begins underground about 30 miles to the west and only emerges into the light of day at this point.
Collier Memorial State Park
We hiked from our campsite to the confluence of the Williamson River and Spring Creek and then up to Collier’s excellent outdoor logging museum, considered one of the best in the country. The exhibits cover the development of logging technology, from the ox carts and hand saws of the 19th century to the industrial scale clearcuts of the 20th. There are numerous high wheels on display as well as a steam donkey, solid wheel wagons, McGiffert and McVay log loaders, etc. etc. there’s also a Settlers’ Village of log dwellings and shops that have been moved here from other locations.
You can hike up Spring Creek as far as a day use area, and there’s also a loop from the campground along the winding and serene Williamson River. The area is well-known for its record size Great Basin red band trout.
Devils Garden from Switchback Hill
East of Collier, we were driving into the fire haze from the Watson Creek Fire, so we turned south from Sprague River and stopped at the Switchbacks Trailhead on the OC & E Woods Line State Trail. Including the Woods Line spur from Beatty to Sycan Marsh, this route (Oregon, California, and Eastern Railroad) is Oregon’s longest rails to trails conversion, a total of 95.3 miles beginning at Klamath Falls. On both sides of Switchbacks Hill, there are reverse spurs where logging trains backed up in order to negotiate the tight topography (A tunnel was planned to overcome this temporary fix but was never built). We hiked down the south slope of the hill, and then went south of the line on an abandoned forest road, passing in the process the remains of an old camp, to find the volcanic wonderland of the Devils Garden.
There’s a larger Devils Garden near Fort Rock and Derrick Cave. The one near Switchback Hill is a hydroclastic volcano, where the magma erupted in water and cooled in blobs and pillow breccias. A heavy dose of Mount Mazama ash was deposited 7,700 years ago, and made walking easy along dune-like pyroclastic ridges. Small windows and breccia formations, along with bonsai-like junipers, made for a fascinating exploration.
We decided to cut east to rejoin the OC & E Line, and followed a dry wash in a shallow canyon to a narrow defile guarded by two gnarly junipers. There, we picked up a cattle trail that took us through a grove of rustling aspen and back to the rail trail.
Link River Trail
This was an evening hike along the Link River, which connects Upper Klamath Lake with Ewauna Lake in Klamath Falls. It is along the Link River where you find the actual “falls” which give the town its name. These are really a series of low drops and rapids much compromised by the construction of PacifiCorp’s Link River Dam in 1920, which uses two 19th century canals, the Ankeny and the Keno, to operate two power stations. PacifiCorp was going to shut these operations down because of fish remediation costs, but now functions at a reduced capacity that will ensure a better future for two endangered species, the Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker.
Klamath Falls is, of course, known for its summer pelican flocks, and we saw plenty of these as well as cormorants, grebes, herons, egrets, geese, and ducks. The west shore of the Link River is a dense growth of plum trees and the fruit, along with a few cherries and apples, was beginning to ripen. We reached the north trailhead at Lakeshore Drive and crossed to the small park at Putnam’s Point on Upper Klamath Lake before returning the way we came.
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Nice! I was down that way in the spring. Collier was really interesting. Great museum. Hiking the old rail line from the Switchbacks Trailhead was also cool. There are some neat areas to explore down that way!