Southern Oregon’s Lake of the Woods, situated between Medford and Klamath Falls, is a natural lake in that it is not, unlike some other large lakes in our area, the by-product of a dam or an irrigation scheme. Runoff from the surrounding watershed still causes the lake’s level to fluctuate, usually only 1 to 2 feet per year. Before people began tinkering with its hydrology in the 1900s, high water in the lake would flow naturally northeast into the Great Marsh and from there into Seldom Creek. Over geological time, this seasonal flow etched a 50-foot or so deep notch in a basalt ledge to form the cascade that is now known as Seldom Creek Falls.
While water from the lake can still flow into the Great Marsh during high runoff – creating a large but shallow lake – a berm and spillway constructed at the east end of the marsh in 1990 now retains all but the highest flows. Thus the falls are only gushing at those rare times when runoff is voluminous enough to crest the spillway and flow into Seldom Creek. The rarity of such an event is one reason these are also called Seldom Seen Falls.
Since we’d had a better than normal snowfall this winter, particularly in the Cascades, we hoped that this year would be our chance to see the falls in action. So we stopped by them on our way back from our hike at Spence Mountain. We should have paid more attention to the lack of standing water in the Great Marsh, as doing so would have tempered our disappointment. We parked where Forest Road 3610 meets Dead Indian Memorial Highway and hiked in to the falls on old roads and cross-country, dodging through and around patches of old snow.
We easily found the notch in the basalt where the falls are supposed to be but we were too late this year. The big gush had come and gone and we were left with just a trickle. 😥
Lessons learned. The preceding winter has to have had a normal (or better) snow fall. The Great Marsh has to be full of water. We have to come earlier in the season, even if that means snowshoeing into the falls. We also need to arrive at mid-day so that the falls are well lit and not in shadow. So maybe next year? 😕 On the way back we needed a hug. Fortunately a giant old-growth fir was there for us when we needed it. 🙂HOME