Natural Bridge on the Rogue River

Rogue River National Forest / Prospect / Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

About Natural Bridge on the Rogue River


Hiking Distance: 1/2-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-07-15
Date last visited: 2016-07-15

Waterfall Latitude: 42.88924
Waterfall Longitude: -122.46555

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The Natural Bridge on the Rogue River was something we stumbled upon while making the long drive from Medford to Crater Lake National Park.

We certainly didn’t anticipate visiting this quirk of Nature, and even when we did, we had debated whether it deserved its own waterfall write-up.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_008_07152016 - Looking upstream at one of the cascades on the Rogue River just downstream from the Natural Bridge
Looking upstream at one of the cascades on the Rogue River just downstream from the Natural Bridge

Well, as you can see on this page, we decided to consider it a waterfalling attraction mostly because the Rogue River cascaded and sloped in several tiers.

Indeed, it was difficult to tell whether the river was tumbling as a waterfall, cascade, or merely rapids.

So we gave it the benefit of the doubt.

The Natural Bridge and Volcanism

One thing was for sure, the reason why this place earned the name Natural Bridge was that it was basically where the Rogue River flowed through an ancient lava tube.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_026_07152016 - Looking across a turbulent cascade towards a cave spring just downstream of the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River
Looking across a turbulent cascade towards a cave spring just downstream of the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River

This caused most of the raging river to disappear before re-emerging through caves as springs often near or over small waterfalls.

It was one of those displays of Nature that was better off being seen in person than captured through photographs (as the photos on this page don’t come close to doing it any justice).

The lava tube phenomenon was yet another example of the legacy of volcanism throughout the Southern Cascades, especially in this part of Southern Oregon.

While Crater Lake National Park was perhaps the most dramatic example of volcanism, this region was full of other examples.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_013_07152016 - Looking down at where the Rogue River disappeared underneath the 200-yard lava tube that was the Natural Bridge of the Rogue River
Looking down at where the Rogue River disappeared underneath the 200-yard lava tube that was the Natural Bridge of the Rogue River

This included the basalt columns of Salt Creek Falls and Toketee Falls as well as the sharp peak of Mt Thielsen.

Heck, even the nearly Mt Rainer-like shape of Mt Shasta further to the south across the state border in the northernmost of California further exemplified the consequences of the Cascade Ranges and the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Interpretive signs here explained that basalt lava flows once filled this basin where the outer layers of the lava cooled rapidly.

However, the insides of the lava flow remained molten and hot until the lava completely drained through, which left behind a lava tube.

Hawaii_Volcanoes_NP_008_03102007 - This was a lava tube that we visited in the Big Island of Hawaii. Now imagine the Rogue River rushing through one of these!
This was a lava tube that we visited in the Big Island of Hawaii. Now imagine the Rogue River rushing through one of these!

We’ve seen examples of this on the Big Island of Hawaii, where we actually walked through some of its lava tubes.

Over time, the path of the Rogue River found its way into this basin and ultimately flowed through these lava tubes yielding the Natural Bridge phenomenon that this particular attraction was known for.

Experiencing the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River

We were able to watch the path of the Rogue River from its disappearance to its reappearance and subsequent waterfalls all from a well-developed and paved foot trail (wheelchair accessible).

From the large parking area (see directions below), we walked for less than 10 minutes to a footbridge traversing the raging Rogue River.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_005_07152016 - Dad and Mom starting the walk to experience the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River
Dad and Mom starting the walk to experience the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River

It was from here that we could clearly see cascades tumbling downstream towards us thereby compelling us to consider this to be a waterfall attraction.

As we crossed the bridge and continued to follow the western banks of the Rogue River, more interpretive signs and overlooks became available to us.

They showed things like a few caves where the hidden river re-emerged as powerful springs.

Further up along the paved walkway, we’d pass by more interpretive viewpoints showing things like pothole formations as well as blowholes above where the river had disappeared into the lava tube or natural bridge.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_032_07152016 - Looking towards where the Rogue River disappears beneath the Natural Bridge where some overflowing parts have emerged further below but the rest of its flow went well downstream
Looking towards where the Rogue River disappears beneath the Natural Bridge where some overflowing parts have emerged further below but the rest of its flow went well downstream

At the very end of the paved section of the trail, there was an overlook allowing us to peer right at the spot where the Rogue River disappeared into an inlet.

That left behind an eerily empty riverbed for about 200 yards before it would re-appear further downstream at the viewing spots we had seen earlier.

One of the interpretive signs here said that Native Americans and early settlers managed to cross the raging Rogue River over this natural bridge where it would be difficult to cross otherwise.

That said, I’d imagine that it would only be a matter of time before the pressure and force of the Rogue River would eventually wear away at the covering layer of the lava tube and cause it to collapse.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_043_07152016 - Heading back to the footbridge over the Rogue River, which would be the much safer way to cross it instead of over the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River, which the Native Americans had done
Heading back to the footbridge over the Rogue River, which would be the much safer way to cross it instead of over the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River, which the Native Americans had done

Time will tell when that will happen, but in the mean time, this was one of the more fascinating (and unexpected) features we stumbled upon in our visit to the Southern Cascades.

Overall, our visit here lasted around 45 minutes with most of the time spent looking at the attraction in wonder and reading the interpretive signs.

Authorities

The Natural Bridge on the Rogue River resides in the Rogue River National Forest near Medford in Jackson County, Oregon. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_007_07152016 - Dad on the footbridge spanning the raging Rogue River while on the well-developed wheelchair-accessible path leading to the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River
Natural_Bridge_rogue_022_07152016 - After the footbridge, the paved path continued along the western banks of the Rogue River
Natural_Bridge_rogue_030_07152016 - This cave was one of the spots where the Rogue River re-emerged after hiding in the lava tubes concealing the river itself
Natural_Bridge_rogue_020_07152016 - Looking downstream along the Rogue River towards the footbridge
Natural_Bridge_rogue_024_07152016 - This other cave was another spot where the Rogue River re-emerged from the lava tubes
Natural_Bridge_rogue_031_07152016 - The paved footpath continued to meander upstream past where the Rogue River had disappeared beneath the Natural Bridge towards its inlet
Natural_Bridge_rogue_045_07152016 - One last look upstream at the raging Rogue River and its waterfalls and rapids from the footbridge

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Natural Bridge was on the way to Crater Lake National Park as we started the drive from Medford, Oregon.

So we’ll do the driving directions as if we started from there.

From the I-5/Hwy 62 exit in Medford, we would take the Crater Lake Hwy (Hwy 62) for roughly 52 miles to a signed turnoff for Natural Bridge on the left.

Once we’ve taken the turnoff, we’d then follow the access road for roughly 0.7 miles to the large parking lot area (ignoring the spurs leading to the Natural Bridge Campground).

Overall, this drive would take a little over an hour.

Natural_Bridge_rogue_049_07152016 - The large parking lot with restroom facility at the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River
The large parking lot with restroom facility at the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River

Coming in the opposite direction from Crater Lake, starting from the South Entrance, we’d drive the Hwy 62 west (right turn away from Klamath Falls) for just under 16 miles to a junction.

Turning left at the junction to go south on Hwy 62, we then drove for another 2.3 miles before turning right to take the well-signed Natural Bridge access road.

Then, we followed it all the way to the large parking lot at the end of the road.

For some geographic context, Medford was 97 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Roseburg, 274 miles (over 4 hours drive) south of Portland, 308 miles (about 5 hours drive) north of Sacramento, California, and 692 miles (10.5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles, California.

Upstream to downstream sweep focusing just on the waterfalling part of the Rogue River as seen from the bridge across its span


Left to right sweep showing where the Rogue River springs from a lava tube before disappearing into a cave further downstream


Left to right sweep from a couple of different spots along the paved nature walk


Downstream sweep showing the Rogue River disappearing into a lava tube then zooming in on a blowhole further downstream

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Tagged with: rogue river, national forest, prospect, crater lake, national park, medford, oregon, waterfall, cascades, jackson county, lava tubes, blowholes, hidden river, southern cascades, natural bridge



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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