Ashland is not just about Shakespeare; there are activities for every taste, and numerous places to explore within an an easy drive. No visit to Southern Oregon is complete without a visit to Historic Jacksonville, the Applegate Valley, and Crater Lake.
Jacksonville, originally called Table Rock City, started out as a gold rush town in the early 1850s, when gold was discovered at Rich Gulch. The hills of the area abound in gold-bearing quartz. Table Rock City boomed suddenly, achieving a population of 2,000 within a couple of years. The city was renamed for President Andrew Jackson, and became the seat of Jackson County and the center of culture and commerce in Southern Oregon.
One of the early settlers was a gold-seeker named Peter Britt. Britt was also a hobby photographer, and he soon found his new calling in recording images of those early times. Britt's photographs are indispensable to our present understanding of the area's history.
When the railway was established in the Rogue Valley in 1884, it bypassed Jacksonville, being routed through Medford instead. In 1927 the county seat moved to Medford as well, and Jacksonville became more of an historical curiosity than the bustling center of activity it had been. In 1966, Jacksonville was designated a National Historic Landmark, with over 100 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. But the city has continued to evolve with the changing times, and the historic brick buildings are now home to fine restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and other unique shops.
Today, Jacksonville boasts attractions both historic and modern. A sense of the town's history can be had by visiting Hanley Farm, which is owned and operated by the Southern Oregon Historical Society. A visit to the town cemetery is fascinating, with headstones dating back 150 years.
Jacksonville is home to the Britt Festival of Music, with dozens of concerts every Summer, featuring world-class artists in classical music, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, world, pop and country music. The Britt Festival also showcases the Rogue Valley's abundant local music talent. Britt Festival performances take place at the Britt Pavilion, in a natural amphitheatre on the historic estate of Peter Britt.
Jacksonville is also a center of Southern Oregon's unique wine culture. There are five wineries in Jacksonville: Daisy Creek Vineyards, Quady North, Caprice Vineyards, DANCIN Vineyards, and the South Stage Cellars.
The Applegate River is a tributary of the Rogue River, running from Siskiyou County in Northern California to Grants Pass in Josephine County, Oregon. Applegate lake, at the South end of Applegate Valley, is a destination for fishermen. The broad, lush Applegate Valley itself is a thriving wine country. No fewer than eighteen wineries are listed along the Applegate Wine Trail, including the Longsword and Troon wineries. Applegate Valley is easily reached from Jacksonville by way of Highway 238.
The deepest lake in the continental US, and the seventh deepest lake in the world, Crater Lake was formed by a massive eruption of ancient Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. In the ensuing time, the crater filled with water, while subsequent eruptions caused Wizard Island to rise near one edge of the lake. Boating and swimming are prohibited at Crater Lake, because the lake has no natural flow. The water is deep azure blue, incredibly clear and pure. In Summer, the Park Service offers boat tours to Wizard Island and other points of interest within the lake. The rim road which encircles the lake allows for an infinite variety of views of the lake, and reaches other area attractions as well. Hiking to any of the several peaks surrounding the lake (including the highest point, Mt. Scott), rewards the effort with panoramic views of the lake and the Cascade Mountains including Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin, and the dramatic spire of Mt. Thielsen. Towering, unearthly columns of eroded volcanic ash may be seen in Pinnacle Valley on the slope of ancient Mount Mazama. The Steel Visitors' Center is open daily from late April to early November 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and early November to late April 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (closed on Christmas). The Visitors' Center features interpretive displays, a short film about the geology and history of Crater Lake, a snack bar and a souvenir store.
The Oregon Caves were discovered in 1873 or 1874 when Bruno, the hunting dog of a local hunter named Elijah Davidson, entered the cave in pursuit of a bear. Davidson eventually made up his mind to go in after the dog, and what ensued was a three-hour adventure in the pitch blackness of a cave system far more extensive than anything Davidson would have imagined. Fortunately for Davidson, a spring creek flows from the cave. By following the water, Davidson was able to find his way back to daylight, where his dog soon greeted him as well.
Today, the extensive solution caves with their strange glistening rock forms are often referred to as the "Marble Halls of Oregon", and the Oregon Caves National Monument has been established to preserve this unusual geological formation. The caves are located 20 miles east of Cave Junction on Oregon Route 46. A separate, larger visitors center in Cave Junction itself is also part of the monument. The National Park Service manages both sites. All tours of the caves are guided. There are regular tours on the main cave trails, and also "caving tours" which go off-trail into remote parts of the cave. For more information visit the NPS Oregon Caves website.
Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure
Fly on the Pacific Northwest's highest zipline! The Rogue Valley Zipline Adventure is a progressive course of five ziplines which culminates in a breathtaking 1300-foot ride over a canyon in the hills near Gold Hill, about 25 miles from Ashland. The tour includes a peek inside the historic Braden Gold Mine, and views of Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Mazama, and the lower Rogue Valley. For information visit RVZipLine.com.
Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions
Based in Grants Pass, just 35 miles from Ashland, these excursions offer a whole new perspective on the Rogue River. Jet boats piloted by US Coast Guard certified guides give you a thrill ride through spectacular country abounding in wildlife and historic interest. Bald eagles are commonly seen on the tours. Be prepared to get soaked, especially if you sit in the front of the boat! Most Hellgate Excursions include stops for refreshment at riverside restaurants; one tour features a champagne brunch. For more information, refer to Hellgate.com.
Hyatt Lake Just over 20 miles from Ashland, this alpine reservoir lake features fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities. Rare cormorants nest in the huge tree snags that jut up from this man-made lake. You can get a good meal at the Hyatt Lake Resort on the west side of the lake, or at the Greensprings Inn on Highway 66. The main campground at Hyatt lake features two boat ramps, a fish cleaning station, and a huge playground near a large sheltered bay suitable for swimming. Visitors may check out recreational equipment to play basketball, tetherball, volleyball, or horseshoes.
To get to Hyatt Lake, drive east on Highway 66 from Ashland. Around mile 18, you'll see the Greensprings Inn on your right. Turn left on Hyatt Lake Road and drive 3 miles to Hyatt Lake. Website of Hyatt Lake Recreation Area
Howard Prairie Lake Just a few miles north of Hyatt Lake on Hyatt Lake Road is Howard Prairie Lake. Mount McLoughlin towers over the lake, where sailboats are often seen. The Howard Prairie Resort has a store, cafe and boat launch with marina. Jackson County also operates seven county parks and campgrounds in the vicinity of Howard Prairie Lake, with a total of 4 improved boat ramps serving various locations on the 5-mile long lake. There is a sizeable island in the lake, where people sometimes camp. Note for 2014: water levels are exceptionally low at Howard Prairie Lake in 2014. Call ahead to inquire about water and boat ramp conditions, especially starting in July. Jackson County: Howard Prairie Lake
Lake of the Woods No muddy banks show at Lake of the Woods, a crystal-clear natural lake high on the Cascades plateau. Fishing and boating are the most popular activities. The Lake of the Woods Resort offers a host of amenities at the lake, including tent and RV camping, a marina with various kinds of boat rentals, the Summer Lodge Restaurant and Bar, a Summer General Store, and a great deal more. To get to Lake of the Woods, start east from Ashland on Highway 66. Less than a mile past I-5 on highway 66, turn left on Dead Indian Road. Continue about 35 miles to Lake of the Woods Resort. The Resort will be on your left.Lake of the Woods Resort