Crystal clear and cold as Hell, that’s Fall River! One time I thought I would be quite clever and come here to anchor my float tube. I found out really quickly why no one floats here, the water is painfully cold. My feet and ankles turned purple and then numb, I didn’t dare try sitting. Good news is trout love cold water and that’s why fly- fishermen love Fall River.
The Fall River Campground is a tranquil escape, just 12.2 miles up South Century (Road 42). The 12 (dry) sites are first-come first-serve but rarely fills to capacity. The Day Use area offers a picturesque bridge and walking trail. Hidden at the back end of the campground is a 6.4 mile out and back trail that runs parallel to the river. The trail ends just before The Fall River Fish Hatchery and can be accessed there or from three separate pull outs along South Century.
But where are all the fish? The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife releases 9,000 trout (and an additional 400 trophy- sized fish) into Fall River each year. Despite these numbers and the relative length of the river (12 miles) fishing reports haven’t been so good. The ODFW has conducted a survey (of tagged fish) and yet the results are inconclusive. It could be that the fish are swimming down the falls and can’t return to the fishing grounds. Poachers? A general decline in the luck of fishermen? Some question the introduction of a stocked fish called “The Crane-Bow”, a derivative of fish from Crane Prairie. The theory is that the Crane-Bows are more likely to migrate down stream and the other stocked fish are following them. As of this time there is no determinant lead as to who or what is the cause of the missing fish. I blame Sasquatch.
The Ponderosa Pine is a distinctive figure on the Central Oregon landscape. Hearty, robust, and long lived- they represent The Spirit Of The West! Ponderosa’s have a thick, fire resistant bark. The trees respond to fire by ramping up reproduction efforts. The new trees take root in (what would be) fire cleared meadows. A fire would have to burn at a low intensity for the tree to survive and then subsequently thrive. Most fires these days would be of a higher intensity and so it is rare that a new growth of Ponderosa’s can successfully take root and survive. Old Growth Ponderosa’s serve as a living relic of days gone by, when this land was all wild. It takes 125-150 years for a Ponderosa to mature and take on it’s famous reddish hue. The bark is useless as a dye, however it is edible. Many Native American tribes would harvest the sweet inner bark, rolling and drying it. The pitch of a Ponderosa can also be used to water proof a basket. In fact, you could weave a basket from the tree’s extra long needles. I could go on forever about the usefulness of trees, but I won’t.
Telegraph lines were strung in this area during the 1930’s by Forest Service Rangers. The rangers would set out for the day with a pack, shovel, and survey the forest on foot. Their main concern was to look for fires but they also strung telegraph lines through the trees as they worked. This line more than likely used to link up to The (rentable) Guard Station one mile up river. The Guard Station was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp and was originally used as a station to fight fires. The Fall River Fish Hatchery is several miles down stream and was built in 1929.
Findings of Archaic Period stone tools near The Fall River Springs suggest this area was used as a camp. Most theorist believe this place was used only in transition, as a place to harvest and carve tools. It’s nice enough however, to make me stay awhile.