Fill Up Your Tank & Go To Southern Oregon

I learned a hard lesson after I moved to Oregon, I learned that any time you plan on going anywhere in this state that isn’t along Interstate-5 that you better fill up your gas tank first. The chances of a gas station drops by about 93%, and the other 7% that you do come across will be $83 a gallon. Not really $83 a gallon, but something similar that will make you question every decision you’ve ever made. On this occurrence I just sat there pondering my entire existence while the sound of the century-old gas pump turned over the numbers like a deck of cards being shuffled as it went thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka-ding-thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka-ding!

In Roseburg, Oregon there starts Highway-138 and it goes east towards and passed Diamond Lake and dead ends into Highway-97. While Diamond Lake is a beautiful place itself, just south of that intersection is Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the country and the 9th deepest in the world. Highway 138, or as I have never called it until now – Waterfall Highway, is home to several dozen waterfalls and cascades. One of my favorite waterfalls is located along this route, Toketee. While it is a pretty touristy waterfall, I like that there is a way to hike down from the observation deck that includes some silly maneuvers and a brief section of repelling. I have encountered high school girls on the path, it isn’t something the majority of people would or should do and for that I am appreciative. I like that it offers an amazing view reserved for the mildly brave.

The impressive waterfall renowned far and wide for the graceful columnar basalt formation framing the two-stepped falls. The North Umpqua River has carved a winding gorge out of the lava flow and this resulted in a 28 ft upper tier which plunges into a pool bordered by a deep recess, and then plunges 85 foot into a large pool, making a combined height of 113 feet. At the trail-head is the wooden Toketee Pipeline, which diverts some of the North Umpqua River to a powerhouse downstream. It allows the flow of the river to stay consistent all year.

The waterfalls start once you get just outside of Roseburg and will give you something to do all day, you stay on the road and it feel like every 15 minutes is a sign for another water fall. Some of them are far off the highway in clusters, others a short walk. The southern Cascades don’t have the concentration of waterfalls to match the Columbia River Gorge, but this highway is home to several of the state’s highest falls and are scattered through the region. Along the 104 miles of concrete lie over 24 waterfalls including Watson, Clearwater, and Grotto Falls. I have had some amazing experiences back there on those roads, and I advocate anyone with access to take the trip and bare witness to the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

I drive a small car, and having it in the PNW is quite laughable but in the South-East United States it is a perfectly ok car. I mean it’s fine now, but it’s just not convenient for some of the terrains I want to go to. A lot of the roads I often travel on are destroyed to the point that it looks like a lost game of Minesweeper. I take my car everywhere, and in the 2 years I’ve owned it I’ve put between 40 and 50 thousand miles on it. That’s a ludicrous amount.

Grotto Falls is a gem hidden in the Umpqua National Forest, 50 minutes off the highway south east of Glide.  The falls plunge 80 feet in two segments over a deeply undercut cliff within a dark recess which gives the falls its name. Upper Grotto, Emile, Unnamed, Cedar Creek, Mile 44 & Fall Creek Falls are all waterfalls within 5 miles of Grotto that you can check out.

Crater Lake is an hour drive from Toketee Falls and if you have the time I advocate you do this. Find some land governed by BLM, get an Air B’n’B, check into a Motel 6. Do what you have to do in order to take advantage of this natural wonder that we have in Oregon.

Crater Lake inspires awe. Native Americans witnessed its formation 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. Scientists marvel at its purity: fed by rain and snow, it’s the deepest lake in the USA and perhaps the most pristine on Earth. Artists, photographers, and sightseers gaze in wonder at its blue water and stunning setting atop the Cascade Mountain Range.


One of the more interesting things to me about Crater Lake is the The Old Man of the Lake, a 30-foot tall tree stump that has been bobbing vertically since at least 1896. The Old Man was first observed and documented over 100 years ago by geologist Joseph Diller bobbing about 4 feet above the water. Years later, when Diller observed the Old Man once again, it was in a new place in the lake. The Old Man has become a thing of legend. Local lore has it that this well-known character can control the weather, the myth going back to a submarine expedition in 1988 when the crew tied up the Old Man, bringing a storm until they untied him. In reality what happened was in ’88 submarine explorations were conducted in the lake and the scientists decided to tie The Old Man off the eastern side of Wizard Island to neutralize the navigational hazard until their research work was complete. I have no idea if they ever untied him, but if the legend is true then it explains why it rains so much in this state. Or at least that’s who I’m going to start blaming. Old man!

So if you have a weekend to go and camp and explore without having to disperse too much energy then going to Roseburg and exploring Highway 138 is an area I can’t recommend enough. The drive is not only littered with waterfalls but it runs along the beautiful North Umpqua River and is often surrounded by beautiful trees, covered bridges and dispersed wildlife.


Please let me know if you’ve been in this area and what your experience was like. I would love to hear from you! Also if you have any tips on places you think I would enjoy then please shoot me an e-mail! Thanks for reading!

13 thoughts on “Fill Up Your Tank & Go To Southern Oregon

  1. After living in Portland, Oregon for 20+ years, we made the conscious decision to move to Southern Oregon (south of Highway 138) for the outdoor recreation opportunities (and for more sunshine). We love it! And your photos are letting folks know what there is to love here! Thanks!


  2. A group of friends & I decided to get an Air BnB and do the full Crater Lake experience before many of them jet off for grad school. I cannot tell you how much I agree that gas stations are few and far between over there! We ended up in a 3 mile line to try to get into Crater Lake the first day and had to turn around to get gas before we ran out. Thankfully we made it early the next day and it was gorgeous and 100% worth it.


    1. Thank you! I encourage you to go! Oregon is beautiful in itself but this specific section of Oregon is one of my favorites. Not many people and a plethora of beauty. Crater Lake is about the busiest place on that 100 mile stretch of highway.


  3. I absolutely love the pictures and adventures and am seriously jealous of you and your awesome adventures (although not the price of gas)! I’ll add this to my list of places I must absolutely have to need to go!


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