A super special place: Rough & Ready Creek

A super special place: Rough & Ready Creek

Upstream of Seats Dam

18 April 2013 | O’Brien, OR — Rough & Ready (R&R) Creek is renowned by natural scientists who adorn the area for its outstanding biodiversity and most unusual geology. Across the web there’s tons of information about the area, but very little direction on how to explore R&R for yourself, with your boots on the ground.

But this area doesn’t have to be elusive, and R&R has something for everyone. You should go hiking there the next chance you get, maybe on your way to or from the coast.

The easiest access is from Redwood Highway 199 just north of O’Brien, OR at the Rough & Ready Creek Botanical Wayside. A short trail is flat and graded well enough for strollers, perfect for a fun family hike along R&R’s lower rocky banks.

But don’t stop there.

Mudsprings Trail

Download the O’Brien 7.5-minute quadrangle map issued in 1996 for free and use it to locate the old roads that provide access to Seats Dam, premier swimming holes, and exposed bedrock formations that are out of this world. R&R’s lower, rocky reaches are best explored when the water is low, fording is easy, and walking in the creek bed is an option.

Hikers who want to take it a step further, and explore Rough & Ready’s upper reaches, can use the historic Mudsprings Trail which appears in map issues as early as 1917. But if you’re going to hike Mudsprings Trail, use the 1996 O’Brien quadrangle, and the Buckskin Peak quadrangle map issued in 1996. 

Darlingtonia fen on the very much threatened Mudsprings Trail

From the blinking light in O’Brien, OR, head west on Lone Mountain Road, right on Naue Way, and then left on FSR 011 (Rough & Ready Creek Rd). Drive slowly and be considerate of the neighbors. You’ll come to a gate that says “Foot Traffic Only.” Park there and walk past the gate.

Follow FSR 442 for about a mile to the south bank of Rough & Ready Creek, where there is a primitive, unsigned, easy-to-miss trail heading west and upstream.

You can follow this route all the way to Mudsprings, but this non-wilderness trail is threatened by ongoing maintenance deferments and damage from the 2002 Biscuit Fire. We’d like to grow the capacity to rehabilitate this historic trail.

Historic Mudsprings Trail filled in with trees killed by the 2002 Biscuit Fire. 

Lace up your boots, study your topo maps and pursue other area destinations, like Alberg Mine, and the upper, deep canyon reaches of R&R. This area is known for being rugged and rocky, wild and forsaken.

So you when you go out there, be Rough. Be Ready, and Leave No Trace.