The Tallest Sugar Pine, Umpqua Falls, and Skookum Pond: Two Days in Umpqua National Forest

by John Williams

When I break out my maps, my mind always goes back to being a little kid driving Hot Wheels cars on a road map of Oregon. I love the feeling of looking at a map, thinking that an area or specific place might be cool and then, with little or no knowledge of the area, going there.

One of my favorite college Professors told me about the idea of filling in the geographic blank spots in your mind. I had never really thought of it that way, but I have loved doing it my whole life. Whether it’s something seemingly insignificant as an old abandoned gas station along a highway or something as breathtaking as Umpqua River, I love filling in those blank spots.

After spending some time staring at my Forest Service map and atlas, I decided that Skookum Pond would be a good place to camp. The fact that all of us going wanted to check out the ‘Super-Moon’ made us steer clear of the other more heavily forested campgrounds. After loading up on the ‘essentials’ for car camping, we set out from Fred Meyers’s in Roseburg.

Though there are many ways to get to the Umpqua National Forest area depending on where you come from, I decided on exit 98 in Canyonville. Before you head out, I would suggest getting a map of the Umpqua National Forest: the roads are not always marked and you will not have cell service.

This campground can be easily accessed by a two-wheel drive car, in good weather anyways. On the way up to Skookum we had to stop at the Tallest Sugar Pine in the world.

Though there have been a couple of larger Sugar Pines recently discovered this tree is definitely impressive. I mean, it’s very hard to tell the difference between at 265 foot tree and a 268 foot tree, unless you’ve got some talent.  Though there wasn’t anyone around when we visited you could tell this place got a fair amount of traffic. Sadly, the ease of access and prominent signage led some scumbag to try and kill the tree by girdling it with a chainsaw. For some reason vandals love to destroy or attempt to destroy some of the most impressive trees on Earth.

Our next stop was Skookum Pond. Along the way we stopped and grabbed some wood that had been left in the sun, it definitely helped out later. When we pulled up to Skookum Pond, my girlfriend was very excited about the pit toilet. I was equally excited about the large Doug Fir near the edge of the pond.

There were three campsites; the only one pondside was occupied up by an Eagle Scout and his father, who had built the nature trail that went part way around the pond. The trail couldn’t have been more than half a mile one way, but it was great of him and his father to build it. After looking at the two other campsites, we decided on the one farthest from the bathroom, because you could park the closest to the fire pit and it had space for two fairly large tents. After setting up camp, we went to check out the trail that the Eagle Scout had built.

After talking to the Eagle Scout and his father, I found out there is a spring that flows from a metal culvert. It’s found by walking between the bathroom and sign and back about 100 feet. It’s behind a massive Cedar, and not hard to find. The water was cold and refreshing. The father told me that it wasn’t flowing from the other side of the road, I believed him. I drank the water untreated and I’m alive still… but if you want to be on the safe side, treat it or boil it.

The next morning my girlfriend and I wanted to go and check out Umpqua Falls before heading home. I’m glad we did. We didn’t know which route we should travel, and we ended up hitting a random snow patch, so we ended up driving back to FR 29. This also allowed us to grab some drinks at the ‘Bear’ Store.

There were a few signs about the various fish runs that happen on the river and what you should and shouldn’t do around the spawning areas. I really wanted to jump in, but because of the large amount of snowmelt the water was absolutely freezing. I was expecting something different from Umpqua Falls, something more vertical, but what was there was beautiful all the same.

You can find more articles by John Williams on his blog Cascadia Living found at:

Liked it? Take a second to support Cascade Media on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!