Metolius provides a cool, clear escape.
CAMP SHERMAN - The summit of Black Butte looks down on one of Oregon's prime recreational playgrounds. And the 100-mile drive from Eugene-Springfield to hike the Black Butte trail becomes even more worthwhile by detouring for a close-up look at some of the sights and activities available in that playground.
The spring-fed Metolius River, to the north of Black Butte, is the playground's centerpiece.
From its banks, the Metolius appears to spring from the base of Black Butte. However, geologists say the water originates not on the cinder cone, but in the snowfields of the Cascade Mountains, well to the west.
No matter, the Metolius headwaters are well worth a visit, if only for the spectacular view of Mount Jefferson, framed by the river, blue sky and majestic ponderosa pines. The Head of Metolius viewpoint is about a quarter-mile walk on a paved path from the well-signed parking area.
The viewpoint is surrounded by private property, so hikers cannot follow the river for its entire length. However, a popular trail system does shadow the river's east for 10 miles of its route northward through meadows and pine forest. Trail No. 4020 starts at Riverside Campground and ends at Lower Bridge Campground.
There is also a trail (No. 4018) on the river's west bank for the six-mile stretch between Lower Canyon Creek and Candle Creek campgrounds.
Either riverside trail provides a hiking experience much less strenuous than the trek to the top of Black Butte. Both trails also provide access to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.
On its way into Lake Billy Chinook, the river flows past 13 campgrounds and through the tiny hamlet of Camp Sherman. From a viewing platform near the Camp Sherman bridge, large trout can be seen finning in the clear water, waiting for handouts of fish food.
The Metolius River is most famous for its trout fishing (the upper 10 miles is fly-angling only). But every fall, lower sections of the river turn red when thousands of kokanee (a landlocked sockeye salmon) in spawning colors make their run into the river from Lake Billy Chinook.
Oregon's healthiest remaining population of bull trout also spawns in the ice-cold water of several Metolius tributaries.
For additional information on trails in the Black Butte area, see the Sisters Ranger District's non-motorized trails page: www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/recreation/trails/trail-district-sisters.shtml.
- Mike Stahlberg
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 24, 2006|
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