Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Scenic Byway Offers Views Of Rivers, Woods & Waterfalls
By Tom Baake
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The view down the Rogue River from Coon Rock Bridge near Agness reveals a placid stretch of the famous waterway.

One of the region’s premiere driving tours is in particularly splendid shape this summer, thanks to a thin but lingering rainy season that brought forth a profusion of wildflowers and a lush palette of greenery. The route spans two major watersheds and – depending on your direction of travel – is called the Coquille-Rogue Scenic Byway or the Rogue-Coquille Scenic Byway, since it begins (or ends) along the Coquille River and ends (or begins) on the Rogue River.

The trip can be made into a loop with a return via US 101, although that’s a lot of driving even for a long summer day. There are, however, many options for overnight accommodations ranging from the rustic to the upscale, so consider making at least a couple days of the trip.

Getting There

For this story, let’s presume you’re approaching from the Coquille side. So, make your way on Highway 42 to Myrtle Point. About 4 miles beyond Myrtle Point, bear right (S), following the sign to Powers.

The route heads up through gently rolling hills, passing the settlement of Broadbent as it follows the South Fork of the Coquille River. Several places along the way are officially designated for angling access, and marked by a sign. Some also have swimming opportunities, many complete with rope swing. About 7 miles up, for example, is Alfred Powers Wayside Park in a grove of big myrtle trees, with access to the river and a swimming hole.

Next landmark is Coquille Myrtle Grove State Park, with picnic tables, restrooms and river access, including another fun swimming hole.

The road traverses rough patches and arrives in Powers after about 18 miles. The US Forest Service office is on the outskirts of town if you have questions or need a map.

Just beyond is Powers County Park, with day-use area, campground, trout-stocked lake, and other amenities. The road continues into town, where there’s a grocery store, cafe, and limited services.

The region’s oldest dwelling, the Wagner Pioneer House, stands alongside the main road. The route doglegs through town, following signs to China Flat, Ilahe, Agness. In about 4 miles is the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boundary. The route becomes FS 33, and there are turnouts for river access.

The whole feeling changes once you’re in the woods. Indeed, this is a very special place. According to the US Forest Service, the Siskiyou area “embodies the most complex soils, geology, landscape, and plant communities in the Pacific Northwest,” and is the most “floristically diverse” national forest in the country.

About 5 miles from town is the short trail to Elk Creek Falls, set amidst lush ferns and tall trees. Next is USFS Myrtle Grove campground, then China Flat, where the Weyerhaeuser Corp. offers an undeveloped camping area. There’s access to a wide, gravely part of the river here.

USFS Daphne Grove campground offers day-use and river access; USFS Island campground is a couple of miles further. Not far beyond the road begins a final climb, up what seems like the back of some gigantic creature. A mountainside of big old trees has been left intact for added drama.  Up we go!

Agness Pass has the feeling of historic crossroads. This is the watershed divide between the Coquille and Rogue rivers, as well as the Coos-Curry county line.

Ahead is a dreamy, seemingly endless sea of trees. Continue south on FS 33, gravel for the next 9 miles. Descend through drier, southern-exposure slopes, home to tanoaks, madrone, and manzanita. The road loops down, with glimpses of the Rogue River deep in the canyon. Take it slowly. Pavement returns near the bottom.

Just before Coon Rock Bridge across the Rogue River is an intersection, with the upriver road heading to Ilahe and Foster Bar (about 3 miles), and the downriver route leading to Agness (also 3 miles). The main route, still FS 33, crosses the river and continues down to Gold Beach, passing several public and private RV parks and campgrounds along the way.

The route emerges on US 101 just south of the distinctive bridge over the Rogue River. Turn left to enter Gold Beach, or turn right to return to Coos Bay (75 miles).

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of the regional guidebook, “Out Our Back Door,” which has complete details and maps of this route. Buy it at local bookstores or at  www.scod.com/guidebooks)

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