Introduction - Waterfalls of Calapooya 2013 - CycleBlaze


This is a theme tour - the objective is to see 25 waterfalls and 8 covered bridges.

This is a local tour - it starts and finishes at home and the farthest point of the route is only 40 miles (64 km) straight line distance from home.

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It's easier to visualize the route if you click the button in the upper right of the map and select "Terrain" view.

Despite being close to home the route is quite remote, mostly in unpopulated timber land on the western slope of the Cascade Range. Fences are rare, many roads are unpaved, and most of the land is owned by U.S. government agencies - Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Most campgrounds are rustic, with no shower and sometimes no piped water. Stores and motels are few and far between. On two occasions I needed to carry a 3-day supply of food.

Map of the state of Oregon showing the location of the tour.
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During the 9-day tour I pedaled 326 miles (522 km) with 18,900 feet (5730 m) of climbing. Google Maps showed 25% more climbing because steep terrain causes Google to misjudge road elevations.

The average daily cycling distance is short but 1/4 of the route is unpaved and 26 miles (42 km) of hiking is required to get to the waterfalls.

Waterfalls of Calapooya tour route showing the location of each waterfall.
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At the beginning of the tour I climbed 1777 foot (539 m) London Hill to get from the Umpqua watershed to the Willamette watershed. In the middle of the tour I returned to the Umpqua watershed by climbing to 4577 feet (1387 m) elevation in the Calapooya Mountains which are western "suburbs" of the Cascade range.

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The name Calapooya is derived from the local Native American tribe, the Yoncalla Kalapuya. The tribe is based in what is now the town of Yoncalla. Their territory once spanned from the Willamette/Umpqua divide to the North Umpqua River. Now the Yoncalla Kalapuya are one of 5 major tribes and 22 small bands forcibly combined into the federally recognized Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

The tour circumnavigates the Calapooya Divide which is the most prominent landmark visible from my town. It's an east-west ridge of mountains that extend west of the Cascade range. The high eastern part separates the Willamette/Columbia watershed from the Umpqua watershed. The lower western part merely separates two creeks in the Umpqua watershed: Elk creek and Calapooya creek.

Calapooya Divide rising above Oakland, Oregon.
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The inspiration for this tour is the free 24-page Thundering Waters brochure which is widely distributed in southwest Oregon. A darn good use of tax dollars!

This brochure contains most of the information I need.
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I pedaled to 17 of the 24 waterfalls described in the brochure. This tour didn't go to the easternmost 6 waterfalls, but I've seen them before including 4 during previous bike tours. I also skipped South Umpqua Falls because it's so isolated and I've seen it before.

Overview map in the Thundering Waters brochure.
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While researching this tour I learned about 5 other waterfalls not described in the brochure. First is Wildwood Falls on the Row River east of Dorena Lake. Second is Pinard Falls, accessed by a new trail south of Spirit Falls. And I learned about 3 Hemlock creek waterfalls along the trail to Clover Falls. The waterfall count grew from 22 to 25 after discovering that Parker and Wolf Creek falls have separate upper and lower falls, and that there really is a waterfall at the Cavitt Creek Falls campground.

Tutorial in the Thundering Waters brochure.
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I did this tour in early summer near the start of the dry season when the waterfalls typically have moderate flow. Unfortunately 2013 has been unusually dry, so this year's flows are lower than normal. Flows would be much larger during the spring snow-melt season, but I can't do the tour then because the highest road isn't passable (it's not plowed). Besides, I don't want to do the tour in late spring because mosquitoes are bad at high elevations.

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A secondary goal for this tour is to see the area's covered bridges. 6 covered bridges are near the town of Cottage Grove, the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the western United States. The 7th covered bridge crosses Cavitt creek south of the town of Glide. The 8th covered bridge crosses Calapooya creek not far from my house.

Covered bridges in the Cottage Grove area.
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This brochure has excellent maps and information.
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Waterfalls are the main attractions, though. I've seen dozens of waterfalls in Oregon but had only seen 5 of the 25 waterfalls previously.

My bike has brand-new wheels which I built a few days before the tour. Last year I abandoned the old worn-out wheels in Corpus Christi, Texas at the end of a tour.

My new Canon S100 camera has a 3 f-stop neutral density filter to allow long exposures for a "silky" water effect. The exposure is usually 1/8 second or longer, so I carried an 11 ounce (312 g) ZipShot tripod. In some ways this was a photography tour because I put a lot of effort into getting good quality waterfall photos. I never used a tripod so often before.

I never tried to create a tour journal during a tour. I have great respect and admiration for those to do, but I never have the time or energy to do that during a tour. My tour journals are all made afterwards, allowing me to create better quality photos and more factual prose.

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