Escapes: Southern Oregon

Exploring new haunts in southern Oregon

By Carolyn Price

If you’re leary of the supernatural, then the one thing you won’t want to do if you overnight at the Chateau at the Oregon Caves in southern Oregon is stay in suite 309–310.

Rumor has it, it’s haunted.

Unknowingly, that was our family’s assigned suite for two nights at this National Historic Monument—deemed one of the Great Lodges of the Northwest—during our vacation last summer.

But we never did see “Elizabeth” carrying her candle across the room or moving glasses around, as others have claimed who have stayed in those rooms.


Fact or fiction?

According to eye-witness reports recounted in the Chateau visitors’ blog notebook (ask for it at the front desk), Elizabeth makes regular visits to the suite. As the story goes, she stayed there on her honeymoon when the inn opened in 1934, jumping to her untimely death out of the third-story window after discovering an affair between her new husband and a chambermaid.

The Rogue River surges through a gorge near Union Creek in southern Oregon. Photo by Carolyn Price

Fact or fiction? I never got a chance to find out, although I secretly moved the plastic potted flowers in my daughter’s room off the small table to the floor near the closet. I went to bed that night trying to telepathically reach Elizabeth, hoping she would get mad and move the pot back to the table. No such luck and my 9-year-old still thinks I’m a crazy woman for doing that.

Haunted rooms aside, we loved the Chateau, located 19 windy miles through the thick Siskiyou Forest along Highway 46 from Cave Junction, just south of Grants Pass.

We enjoyed the massive stone fireplace in the rustic great lobby on a rainy morning and Cave Creek that tumbles through the Chateau’s lower level, emptying out at a lovely peaceful pond just outside the ground-floor restaurant.

Hiking trails are abundant in the Siskiyous surrounding the Chateau and trail maps are available in the lobby. We hiked the 1.3-mile No Name Loop Trail, an easy family hike that took about an hour; my partner did the 3.3-mile Big Tree Loop Trail which leads to the largest diameter Douglas fir known to exist in Oregon; while I followed the 1.5-mile Cave Creek Trail after emerging from our Oregon Caves tour.

The Oregon Caves entrance is just across the road from the Chateau. Discovered in 1874 by Elijah Davidson who was bear hunting with his dog, the Oregon Caves today are a National Monument operated by the National Park Service and enjoyed by thousands of visitors annually.

We took the 90-minute guided cave tour—a bargain at about $25 for a family of three—and burrowed through a kilometer of twisting passages that were backlit at strategic locations for more dramatic viewing. We learned more about stalagmites, stalactites and cave draperies than we ever thought possible.

To demonstrate the total darkness crickets, bats and other cave critters live in, the guide turned out the lights momentarily. Yep, it was dark—couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces!

Rogue River Trail

rogue river trail image

A hiker enjoys a moment of solitude along the Rogue River Trail near Union Creek, Ore. Carolyn Price photo

In southern Oregon, the Rogue River is king.

We stayed with my cousins Bob and Anne at their cabin in the community of Union Creek, located about an hour north of Medford. Their backyard was the Rogue where we discovered a river-front dirt path that is part of the Rogue River Trail.

Starting at the Grave Creek Trailhead north of Crater Lake, the trail is interspersed with plenty of campgrounds and bridges along the way before ending up in Grants Pass about 40 miles downriver. A word of caution: the average temperature here in July and August is 90 degrees so prepare for the heat if you go during these months.

Luckily we hit the trail in late June crossing the Natural Bridge, where the Rogue rushes through underground tunnels of lava tubes and then blasts out in a bubbly white-water surge visible from the bridge that we stood on.

I could see why the Rogue was one of the original eight rivers named in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Southern Oregonians and their visitors love this river and it is a constant topic of conversation whether it is about fishing, rafting, hiking, swimming (albeit cold at about 44 degrees) or just enjoying the scenic viewpoints.

Even famed novelist Zane Grey wrote many of his epic Western adventures from his small cabin along the Rogue nearly 100 years ago.

If you’re going to spend any time at all in the Union Creek area, don’t-misses include the Union Creek Resort where lodge rooms run from $50–$60, Beckie’s Cafe where the locals eat, the historic Prospect Inn and Restaurant and especially Phil’s Frosty in Shady Cove on Highway 62—where even our canine friend Amos-Moses enjoyed a few licks of Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream.

Ziplines, jetboats and a wildlife refuge

Zipline Crew at Out 'n' about. Photo by Carolyn Price

Our next adventure was Out ’n’ About Treehouse Ziplines where they not only have beginning and advanced lines, but you can also stay overnight in one of their unique treehouses.

We tried the beginner circuit of five ziplines which took us as high as 70 feet. Splattered with dirt and mud, dizzy from climbing ladders and zipping down the lines, we finished the quintet of lines tired but feeling quite accomplished. We were encouraged by the competent guides to try their more advanced lines but politely declined, walking away with muddy smiles all over our faces.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has always been a favorite movie of mine, so when I found out the Hellgate Jetboat Excursions in Grants Pass could take me to the famous 100-foot cliffs where the boys made their iconic jump at Hellgate Canyon, I was there!

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions boat roars down the Rogue River. Photo courtesy of Hellgate Jetboat

During our 18-mile passage up the Rogue to the canyon, the 40-passenger jetboat spun, glided, roared and drenched us while providing plenty of wildlife viewing including several bald eagles and even a huge osprey nest atop a bridge we cruised under.


The captain lowered the boat’s throttle for a smooth slow ride through the canyon, and then turned them on full bore for a wild, splashy return.

In addition to day rides, Hellgate Jetboat Excursions offers brunch, lunch or dinner at its newly remodeled Northwest River Lodge called the OK Corral.

On a calmer note, thank you, we visited Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, a 24-acre facility in Grants Pass where sick, injured and orphaned wild animals are given a second chance at life. In fact, this non-profit most recently accepted a pair of wolf pups brought to them from California.

Bald Eagles recuperate at Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center. Carolyn Price photo

We took a one-hour guided tour and enjoyed a unique opportunity to get up-close to wildlife such as a grizzly bear, bald eagles, cougars, foxes and reptiles. Wildlife Images makes for a great outing for all ages, is wheelchair accessible and open year-round. They also have a weeklong day camp for kids during the summer.

I have to admit, I was surprised to find out there was more to southern Oregon than just Harry and David pears. Our family had a blast and we’ll return for more adventures—if not for yet another chance to meet Elizabeth!

Carolyn Price is publisher of Outdoors NW. Turn to page 6 to read her narrative of getting stuck at 40 feet high on the zipline and log onto to see her zipline video.

If You Go

Chateau at the Oregon Caves:

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions:

Oregon Caves:

Out ’n’ About Treehouse Ziplines:

Rogue River Trail:

Southern Oregon Visitors Association:

Wildlife Images:


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