In Chinook Jargon (a language developed by Northwest Native Americans to make it easier to trade with different tribes) “Toketee” means pretty or graceful, which is exactly what comes to mind when you see this 120-foot waterfall in rural Douglas County, Oregon. A half-mile hike through an old-growth forest of Douglas fir, western red cedar, big leaf maple, and Pacific yew ends at a sturdy viewing platform overlooking two-tiered Toketee Falls. The well-graded and wooded trail is rated “easy” except for the 100+ steps up and down to the viewing platform.
At a few points along the trail you’ll be able to see the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River churning through a narrow rock gorge. The grinding action of sand, gravel, and rocks over thousands of years has created a variety of bowl-shaped “potholes.” The river eventually plunges 40 feet onto a ledge, then plummets another 80 feet into a large pool, creating picturesque Toketee Falls. Columns of basaltic lava frame this year-round falls, as do lush ferns and moss.
Before you even hit the trail, the first point of interest is in the parking lot — a 12-foot diameter redwood pipeline. Completed in 1949, it is part of the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, owned by PacifiCorp. The water that flows through the pipeline originates at an earth-filled dam less than a mile upstream of Toketee Falls (not reachable by the trail). Water enters an intake structure at the dam and then runs through the wood-stave pipe for 1,500 feet where it then transitions to concrete just before entering a tunnel through Deer Leap Rock. This water powers three generator turbines. Although you’ll notice several small “geysers” erupting from small holes in the top and sides of the wooden pipeline, there doesn’t seem to be a negative impact since enough energy is produced to power approximately 22,500 rural homes.
IF YOU GO:
The Toketee Falls trailhead can be found 1/2 mile north of Highway 138 near Toketee Lake, which is about 43 miles east of Glide, Oregon or 16 miles west of Diamond Lake. From Roseburg, Oregon turn onto OR-138 E/NE Diamond Lake Blvd. Then turn north off Highway 138 at milepost 58.6 onto Road 34 (Toketee-Rigdon Road). Cross the first bridge and turn left to the trailhead parking. Trailhead is at the far end of the parking area. The primitive Toketee Campground is located about two miles north of the falls.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com