Oregon Wine Country Blog

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Five areas to explore in Oregon’s North Santiam River Country

Oregon’s North Santiam River Country, located approximately an hour east of Salem, abounds with outdoor recreational opportunities. Situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the area offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, fishing, nature viewing and water sports. Before the summer runs out enjoy these five places worth exploring.

  1. Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area

Take a trip through history on a hike to Jawbone Flats. First inhabited by Native Americans, Jawbone Flats is believed to have been a summer camp for the Santiam Molalla Indians. In 1930, the town was transformed into a mining camp, where they processed lead, zinc, copper and silver. Today, visitors can trek 6.5 miles on a round-trip adventure to Jawbone Flats and Opal Pool with its beautiful emerald waters set amidst lush old growth forest.

  1. Elkhorn Valley Area

Located just outside of the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area is Salmon Falls Park, where the Little North Fork of the Santiam River drops nearly 30 feet to a pool below. The scenic area is forested and is ideal for summer picnicking, fishing and water activities.  Just a five-minute drive from the park is the trailhead to Henline Falls. The less than two-mile trail takes hikers to the gorgeous 125-foot waterfall and a crystal-clear plunge pool.

  1. Jefferson Wilderness

Mt. Jefferson Wilderness covers more than 100,000 acres of the Cascades and more than 163 miles of trail. From day hikes to backpacking trips, there are miles of wilderness to explore.

The Whitewater Trailhead, which is suitable for horseback riding, provides access to six trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail. The 11-mile round-trip trail (#3429) leads hikers into the Jefferson Park Area, which is filled with alpine lakes, wildflowers and hiking trails. The trail also provides dramatic views of Mt. Jefferson.

  1. Detroit Lake Recreation Area

Known as the “most visited lake in Oregon,” Detroit Lake is a popular location for boating, fishing, biking, swimming and camping. The nine-mile lake is stocked annually with 125,000 rainbow trout. Fishermen can also find kokanee, Chinook salmon, brown bullhead, largemouth bass and pumpkinseed in the reservoir. The Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway stretches from Detroit to Estacada, with forests, rivers and campsites along the way.

  1. Breitenbush Area

The Breitenbush River is a tributary of the North Santiam River. Along the river’s path, you’ll find ancient forest trails, relaxing hot springs and numerous campgrounds. Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center offers an escape from everyday life. Located in a rugged and beautiful mountain setting, Breitenbush is home to several hot springs. The clothing-optional pools are only open to guests of the resort. The resort is also surrounded by many miles of ancient forest trails where the sights and sounds of the river accompany hikers. Day passes are available, but reservations are required.

After spending the day (or days) exploring the outdoors in North Santiam River Country, you’ll find some great places to grab a bite or relax with a glass of wine or craft beer. In Mill City, Giovanni’s Mountain Pizza is a popular spot for a post hike meal. As you continue west towards Salem, stop at Piluso Vineyard & Winery in Aumsville and enjoy a glass of estate-grown wine in the Vintner’s Garden. In nearby Silverton, enjoy craft brews paired with locally sourced food at popular Seven Brides Brewing.

Photo Credit: Ron Cooper