Named in honor of the pioneer Cantrall family by the Bureau of Land Management, Cantrall Bridge replaced a rickety old bridge in 1960. - Bill Miller

Cantrall's cherished place

Her father taught Joanne Cantrall Hoffman to work and not play.

"I only had two dolls in my life," she said. "I was given animals instead."

While growing up, Hoffman always felt that if she didn't get away from the ranch, she'd be stuck there forever.

"My intention had always been to come back, but I didn't get that opportunity."

Her father, Harlan Cantrall, had been born on the family's 357-acre Applegate Valley ranch and he, too, had wanted to get away.

After graduating from Jacksonville's high school in 1926, he earned his teaching credential from the Southern Oregon Normal School, today's Southern Oregon University.

He taught two semesters at the one-room schoolhouse in Ruch before his teaching days were over.

"His father called him back to the ranch after having his first heart attack," said Hoffman, "and then my Dad never left again."

Though it was hard work at the time, looking back, Hoffman now remembers some of the good times.

"I think we ran the last cattle drive ever seen in the Valley," she said. "That would have been in about 1969 or '70."

In June each year, the herd was led from the ranch into the mountains south of the Upper Applegate River, as far as the California border and sometimes a little beyond.

"The cattle would graze there for a few weeks before being driven back to the ranch," Hoffman said. "Of course, this was all on horseback, you understand."

One of her fondest memories is of the old swimming hole, now a part of Cantrall-Buckley Park.

"It was always part of the ranch, but it was the least-used by us," she said. "During the summer, people would come out to fish, to swim, drink beer, jump off the bridge and, of course, it was always the local make-out joint.

"We were down there a lot, pulling people's cars out of the mud when they got stuck."

It was also where her older brother, Bob, taught her fly fishing.

"That was an experience, something absolutely different," she said.

In the 1950s, Harlan Cantrall began thinking about preserving his part of the Applegate River.

"Dad thought for a number of years that he wanted to make that area into a park," she said. "He wanted to save the land for generations to come."

In 1960, Harlan Cantrall donated a right of way to the BLM, which built a bridge across the river just upstream from the old swimming hole.

Jackson County purchased some property nearby, and by the early 1970s Harlan Cantrall and his neighbors, the Buckley family, had donated enough land for the county commissioners to create the 88-acre Cantrall-Buckley County Park.

Hoffman worries about the park's future

"It's so gorgeous down there," she said. "It's had some tough times, but it needs to be taken care of and cherished.

"My father believed in nature, and he wanted the beauty kept that way. I only hope people will remember that and find a way to keep it going."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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