Oregon Caves Road Guide
ZERO YOUR ODOMETER at Holland Loop Road and continue toward Oregon Caves National Monument.
0.0 Intersection of Holland Loop Road.
0.1 Grayback Lookout
Immediately past Holland Loop Road, pull into the large turnout on the right and look up at the top of the mountains to your left where you may be able to see a small structure. This is the Little Grayback Fire Lookout, a 14×14 foot “L-4 cab” that was originally constructed in 1940 on top of a 20′ wooden tower near the historic town of Waldo. At that time is was called the Waldo Hill Lookout and was staffed into the 1970’s. It was moved in 1981 by helicopter to this location and is now staffed every summer by Oregon State Forestry employees. It is located at an altitude of 5, 156 feet making it one of the most inaccessible lookouts in the state (15, 16).
0.3 Bear Creek
0.4 Bear Creek Road and Kellogg House
Bear Creek Road on the left goes over a low pass to where it meets Lake Shore Drive near Lake Selmac County Park, a distance of about 10 miles on a narrow but paved road.
Across from the entrance to Bear Creek Road is the Kellogg House, which was constructed in 1890 (1).
Pull over to let faster traffic pass. If you get out of your car and look over the edge you will see a water ditch that was probably used for irrigation.
1.8 Woodland Echoes (Country Hills Resort)
In the late 1980s there was an unusual tourist attraction built here called Woodland Echoes. It was set up so visitors would walk through the park on a “tour through time” that started with Native Americans then fur trappers of the 1830s, Oregon gold rush in the 1850s, pioneer wagon train, saw mill, and ended with a lunar capsule “on the moon”, and a “fake” shopping mall depicting the modern Oregon (6, 7). The entire network covered about three acres and was unusual because 60 custom carved wood statues, all about three quarters the size of an average person, were positioned in various “scenes” depicting a phase of the local history. The buildings are gone but many of the carvings can still be seen on the property.
1.9 Mile Post 8 – Entering Oregon State Scenic Highway
In 1983, Oregon State Legislators passed Senate Bill 643 directing the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to conduct a study of the historic and scenic features of the state highway system and designate appropriate sections for preservation. In 1986, the Oregon Historic and Scenic Highway Program report was released listing twenty-five highways including a portion of Oregon Caves Highway. The scenic road begins at mile post eight and continues to the boundary of Oregon Caves National Monument (13).
3.3 Baldwin Ranch:
Raymond Baldwin worked for many seasons as a guide at the Oregon Caves in the early years of its operation (1). Prior to the construction of the Oregon Caves Highway in 1922, travelers could rent horses from the Baldwin Ranch and ride to the caves for tours (12).
3.6 Road to Little Grayback Fire Lookout and Holcomb Peak
The road to Grayback Lookout required high clearance and four wheel drive. Forest Service maps are recommended for travelers who would like to explore backcountry roads.
3.7 Paved turnout – please pull over to let faster moving traffic pass.
3.8 Little Grayback Creek Bridge
The wooded area on the right may have been the location of Camp Three Creeks, a campground that was used in 1914 as a base camp for Joseph Knowles, the Siskiyou Nature Man, who scouted the local mountains for a place to do his “man against nature experiment” (11).
4.0 Lake Creek
4.3 Turnout to view Sucker Creek
This creek was one of the first places in the region where gold was found and was one of the main mining districts during the Oregon gold rush of 1851. A yellow sign on the tree is a mining claim notification for the “Lucky Sucker Mine”.
4.8 Grimmet Ranch & Lind House (site)
The Grimmett family began farming in this area in 1895 (1) and prior to the construction of the Oregon Caves Highway, travelers could make arrangements to sleep in the farm house and rent horses to ride to the caves for tours (12). In 1920, one of the Grimmett daughters and her husband, EJ Lind, built a home next to the highway. They provided housing for surveyors and road crews constructing the Oregon Caves Highway in 1922 and then continued to provide travel accommodations for travelers. The inn became known as the Lind House (1). The house is no longer there but the site can be found next to the road just before mile post 11. Two redwood trees grow next to the driveway and cabins seen across the field may have been used for accommodating guests.
The Grimmett School was built here in 1898 using log construction. Children from three local families, and likely local mines, attended school. The building had two attached structures that included a wood shed for fire wood and a stall for the horses that students rode to school. The desks were home made from raw lumber and students learned from text books such as Fisher’s Arithmetic, Hick’s Champion Speller, and McGuffy’s Reader (14). The historic log school was moved to the Kerbyville Museum in 1959 where it is now on display. It is believed to be the oldest-standing school house in Josephine County.
5.2 Boundary of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
5.3 Grayback Campground
The entrance to this beautiful and underused campground is on the right. Visitors can enjoy a wheelchair accessible trail that goes along the river and has viewing decks, benches, and a footbridge over Sucker Creek. The camp was built by crews from the Camp Oregon Caves Civilian Conservation Corps camp around 1934 (2).
5.6 Grayback Road (USFS 4611):
This is a gravel surfaced road that can be followed to Williams and Medford. A Forest Service map is recommended if you want to travel this route because of multiple intersections and changes in road numbers. The road is closed by snow during winter months. Across the road there was at one time a bridge over Sucker Creek that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps crew living at Camp Oregon Caves.
5.6 Cedar Guard Station:
The Cedar Guard Station was one of several Forest Service ranger outposts in the region and was built in 1934 by a crew from Camp Oregon Caves, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) facility that was located behind this cabin. The exterior is covered with bark of the Port Orford cedar (also called the white cedar) and is one of the last remaining examples of Cascadian Cedar Bark architecture in the Pacific Northwest (2). The garage behind the cabin was build around the same time.
A 1922 map of this area showed a ranch and orchard that were in this location prior to the construction of the Cedar Guard Station and Camp Oregon Caves. The apple and pear trees behind the Guard Station are likely what remains of the orchard.
A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) facility called Camp Oregon Caves was established in the flats behind the guard station 1934 and had a crew of 200 who lived here and worked on projects in this area during the winter and at Crater Lake during the summer. The camp closed in 1941 as young men were recruited to fight World War Two. The buildings were disassembled and the wood used for construction of other buildings in the valley. The only thing remaining is the flat ground where the buildings once stood.
A tree that grew between buildings of the CCC camp can be found behind the paved parking area behind the guard station and provides a “marker” to help identify the layout of the historic facility. This tree was added to the Oregon State Heritage Tree Program in 2011.
There is a relatively level, one mile loop trail behind the historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp
If you walk to the Grayback Creek Bridge and look up stream you will see “V” shaped dams made of logs in the stream. These were installed for sediment control to stabilize the stream bed and make it better suited for salmon spawning (3,5).
From this point the road climbs upward for the next eight miles to Oregon Caves National Monument.
ZERO YOUR ODOMETER at the Grayback Creek Bridge a few yards past Cedar Guard Station to continue the history tour to Oregon Caves.
End Section 2
1) Atwood, Kay, 1984. Josephine County Historical Resources Inventory, 1983-1984. Josephine County Planning Office (1984), Grants Pass, Oregon
2) Beckham, Stephen Dow, 1979. An Inventory and Evaluation of the Historical Significance of the Civilian Conservation Corps Buildings on the Siskiyou National Forest. Lewis and Clark College, Oregon http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/HCD/OHC/docs/josephine_CCCSiskiyou.pdf?ga=t
3) Illinois Valley News, July 28, 1988. Grayback and Wood Creeks Involved In Project; Streamwork Will Benefit Fish Habitat.
4) Illinois Valley News, January 8, 1959. Centennial Garden Project Underway by I.V. Grange
5) Illinois Valley News, August 24, 1989. Forest Service wades into fish enhancement.
6) Illinois Valley News, March 29, 1990. Woodland Echoes planning large, historical theme park.
7) Illinois Valley News, May 24, 1990. Historical theme site will open.
8) Illinois Valley News, September 22, 1993. Grayback barrier-free interpretive trail – and more.
9) Mark, Steve, 2006. Domain of the Cavemen. National Park Service, second edition 2011.
10) Metsker, Charles, 1932 and 1955. Metsker’s atlas of Josephine County, Oregon, p18 and 27.
11) Oregonian, July 14, 1914. Nature Man to Live in Grants Pass Wilds 60 days
12) Oregonian, August 10, 1919. To Reach Oregon Caves – Official Directions as to Route to Follow
13) Smith, Tom, 1986. Caves Highway Section Deemed Scenic. Illinois Valley News, September 18, 1986
14) Illinois Valley News, July 2, 1959. Oldest Log School in County Moved; To Restore It at Kerbyville Museum.
15) Illinois Valley News, August 6, 1981. Fire Sentinel of the Siskiyous is Silent, Lonely Profession.
16) Little Grayback Lookout Josephine County Forest Lookouts http://oregonlookouts.weebly.com/josephine-county.html
17) Brandt, Roger, 2014. Ground Observation Corps. Highway199.org
18) Brandt, Roger, 2014. Camp Oregon Caves, Highway199.org
19) Brandt, Roger, 2011. Camp Oregon Caves Heritage Tree Nomination
Oregon Caves Highway Contacts
EMERGENCIES: Dial 911
Visitor Center..............541 592-4076
Cave Tours..................541 592-2100 x2262
Oregon Caves Lodge..877 245-9022
Forest Service............ 541 592-4000