Beyond Golden Falls

2011-10-29T11:00:00Z Beyond Golden FallsBy Rachel Finney, The World Coos Bay World
October 29, 2011 11:00 am  • 


Standing above Golden Falls, it's difficult to imagine that used to be a road.

But it was, and a member of the South Coast Striders brought along an old, black and white photo of his 1936 Plymouth parked right where the hikers were sitting on Sunday to prove it.

It's one of many oral stories associated with Golden and Silver Falls State Park, many of which even locals may not know. A large group of hikers listened intently as a few of the older Striders recalled the logging road that used to be right where the trail is today.

One shared the story of his first memory - a bridge spanning the water right below Silver Falls and seeing a motorcycle zooming up and down the road. Soon after, they closed it because of the danger, he said.

Further up the trail, the sheer rock face at the top of Golden Falls shows the evidence there was once a road on that scarily-thin path. Drilled holes in the vertical rock can still be seen, leftovers of the road that once was the way to travel to Eugene via Loon Lake.

Don Luce, leader of the Striders' hike, and a few others scanned the rock wall to point out the drill holes to hikers as everyone discussed the historical nugget so far in the past that it seemed impossible.

Luce carried around a copy of Lionel Youst's book, Above the Falls: An Oral and Folk History of Upper Glenn Creek, Coos County, Oregon, just so he could refer to it, and he read from its pages before the hike began.

He told of how Marshfield and North Bend residents could take a ferry as far as tidewater would carry them, before a Cadillac would pick them up en route to Scottsburg, Drain and Eugene.

But beyond the falls is where the stories come to life.

For the bush-whacking and adventurous types, a trail continues past Golden Falls that's sometimes easy to follow and sometimes easy to lose. For a short while, the trail opens up and it's simple to picture logging trucks rumbling down an old road. Just beyond, in a beautiful valley that used to be old-growth timber, lived a few remote families.

In Youst's book, he details the lives of the families, including the Schapers, who settled after "someone named Harris." These people were loggers, hunters, trappers, farmers and many other occupations, depending on the season.

"The country was rough and wild and the people living there were the stuff of legends," Youst says in his book.

On Sunday, the hiking group wandered along a route created by elk, passing bear scat, elk droppings and dense brush. A clearing in the forest is all that's left of Elizabeth Schapers' former orchard, though a few apple trees still stand strong.

The families were completely self-sufficient, only having to purchase food items such as sugar and flour after they purchased cows, Luce said from under an apple tree.

Both Golden and Silver falls were discovered much earlier in the late 1800s, according to Youst. Golden Falls was named for Dr. Charles Golden, one of the first tourists, Youst says. The falls are an impressive cascade of Glenn Creek, which was named for William W.R. Glenn, who settled near there from Maine and is the creek's namesake.

Jess Ott, the son of Elizabeth Schapers, knew Glenn and told Youst that Glenn could fix anything, especially clocks.

"Clocks, it seems, were becoming more important further down river," Youst says. "Time, as measured by clocks, wasn't used very much up Glenn Creek."

The families lived there until the bridge was removed and the road was closed in 1958, leaving the land vacant and inaccessible. Now, only stories remain.

The hiking group ventured back from the orchard and sat by Frog Creek for lunch. Eating sandwiches and socializing, a breeze kicked up and fall leaves began peacefully falling all at once around them, swirling around in the cool wind.

Someone broke the near-silence and proclaimed how beautiful it was, and wondered aloud how quiet it must have been for the former residents above the falls.

Outdoors Editor Rachel Finney can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 237, or at

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Claudia
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    Claudia - July 12, 2013 9:34 pm
    Hi, my family used to own the first homestead up above the Golden Falls in the 50's at one time it was used for Boy Scouts for there Jamborees. That was after my grandparent stopped farming the land and the couple that stayed there for fern picking. We used it for Summer until it was sold in the early 60s. I would love to hike back up there some day before I am unable to. I remember riding down the old wagon road in a pick up truck to town, very scary. Claudia Little
  2. jvan
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    jvan - October 30, 2011 5:03 pm
    Last year around this time Mr. Metzger who is the geology professor at SOCC took his class on a hike to golden silver falls. An older gentleman came along and told so much history of the falls. This was a true experience for me. The Historical information this older man had simply made the woods come alive out there!! This information should be preserved everyone who hikes out there should really understand the past history of the land!!!
  3. penelop
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    penelop - October 29, 2011 12:50 pm
    I can't believe it! The World actually published a well-written, interesting, and entertaining article! There is hope for this paper. Try to keep this writer, please.
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