Relax at North Fork Park

Relax at North Fork Park

Dorothy left Kansas in Auntie Em's house, riding a tornado with Toto, that "little dog, too."

Things were a bit easier for Cherry Stevens, her husband, and of course, Riley, their frisky wire-haired terrier. Their trip over the Rockies was in air-conditioned comfort, touring cross-country in their well-traveled RV.

Stevens is an elementary school teacher in eastern Kansas.

"It's a town near Topeka that nobody's ever heard of," she said with a smile.

This is Riley's first trip to Oregon, but the Stevens family has been here twice before.

"We stayed at the Prospect RV park last time and liked it so much we came back," Stevens said.

Riley was getting her morning exercise on a leash, by the shore of the reservoir behind Pacific Power's concrete dam, on the North Fork of the Rogue River, near Prospect.

"There's a very short path from the RV park to the dam," said Stevens. "This is such a peaceful area, it's a wonderful walk. I'm sure we'll be coming over here for a few picnics this week."

The North Fork Park and picnic area, shaded by tightly clustered pine, is owned by Pacific Power, which has set up a few tables and a couple of porta-potties for public use.

The water behind the dam is flat and attracts rafters and boaters who just want to float around, or perhaps drop a fishing line or their toes into the water.

The park is also the southern trailhead for the Rogue River Trail, which follows the east bank of the Rogue, through Union Creek, and for those with a hearty hiker's heart, continues all the way north to Boundary Springs, the actual beginnings of the Rogue River.

Looking at the serene reservoir, it's hard to believe that just a mile downstream, the waters will rage and then cascade over a cliff, roaring beneath the Prospect Bridge and into the Rogue River gorge.

For nearly 100 years, this part of the river has been a source of hydroelectric power. By 1912, when the Rogue River Electric Co. opened its million-dollar power plant on the north bank of the Rogue, just south of the Prospect Bridge, a two-mile long flume diverted water from the North Fork park area to a cliff 500 feet above the powerhouse. There, a metal pipe forced the water into the turbine below.

In January 1928, a new power plant opened along Mill Creek Drive, fed by two 8-foot diameter redwood pipes that took water from the newly constructed concrete dam at today's park. The power plant was replaced in 1944, but the wooden pipes remained, eventually leaking streams of water into the air along Highway 62, until they were replaced with steel pipes in 2002.

Cherry Stevens said her family will definitely be back in a couple of years.

"It's a perfect spot for someone who wants to be near Crater Lake," she said, "and it sure is different for us. We're definitely not in Kansas, anymore."

Bill Miller is a Southern Oregon freelance writer. Reach him at

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