Watson Falls

Umpqua National Forest / Roseburg / Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

About Watson Falls


Hiking Distance: 0.8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-08-21
Date last visited: 2016-07-14

Waterfall Latitude: 43.24171
Waterfall Longitude: -122.39095

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Watson Falls was a very tall 272-293ft columnar free-falling waterfall that kind of provided us with a contrasting waterfalling experience with the neighboring Toketee Falls gracefully falling further downstream on the North Umpqua River.

We’ve managed to make a pair of visits to this falls – once in August 2009 and once in July 2016 when it looked remarkably similar in flow to the time when we first saw it.

Watson_Falls_075_07142016 - Watson Falls
Watson Falls

I’ve seen in the literature the Watson Falls having lesser flow much later in the Summer.

So clearly, this waterfall benefitted from the melting snow, which would suggest that the late June or early July time frame would be the best season for viewing.

Moreover, each time we’ve done this waterfall, it was in the morning where it was almost like a race against time to reach the end of the trail before the morning sun would blind us as we’d be looking right up against it towards the falls.

Based on these experiences, I’m sure coming here late in the afternoon had the potential to improve the lighting conditions, but that theory remains to be seen.

Hiking up to the base of Watson Falls

Watson_Falls_001_08212009 - Glimpse of Watson Falls as seen from the trailhead and parking lot
Glimpse of Watson Falls as seen from the trailhead and parking lot

Although we were able to glimpse the falls from the parking lot and picnic area (see directions below), it was merely a partial view and we clearly needed to do the trail to come in for a closer look.

The hike itself was roughly 0.6-mile in each direction, and it was a primarily uphill hike amongst a canopy of tall trees and ferns.

That said, the trail was well-shaded (even humid in stretches) where we also noticed mossy-covered rocks that my Mom said reminded her of the trolls in Disney’s Frozen.

Perhaps there was something to this association as Iceland and Norway were also known for having moss-covered rocks like what she saw attesting to the relatively wetter climates seen in higher lattitudes.

Watson_Falls_019_07142016 - The mossy boulders that reminded my Mom of the trolls in Disney's Frozen
The mossy boulders that reminded my Mom of the trolls in Disney’s Frozen

Anyways, we didn’t really start to get views of Watson Falls again until the trail started to skirt Watson Creek near a bouldery cascade.

Shortly after our first closer glimpse of the falls, and a short distance further up the trail, we got more partial looks at the Watson Falls from a curving footbridge at about 0.3 miles from the trailhead.

Beyond that, the views improved the further up the trail we went, especially as we got to a spot where there was a bench with an even more direct unobstructed view of the falls (see the photo at the top of this page).

Just when we thought we were getting close to the end of the trail, it would climb more steeply and then start to veer away from Watson Creek in one long switchback.

Watson_Falls_050_07142016 - Dad continuing up the trail to the base of Watson Falls
Dad continuing up the trail to the base of Watson Falls

There was a trail junction at the far end of the switchback where the path on the right looped back straight to the trailhead, but the path on the left turned back towards the base of Watson Falls’ dramatic plunge.

The Base of Watson Falls and the Remainder of the Loop Hike

The moist viewing area at the base of the falls was literally overshadowed by very high overhanging cliffs where I wondered whether the next rock fall might come down on top of this viewing spot.

I also noticed a muddy trail of use leading steeply down towards the bottom of Watson Falls itself though it didn’t look like a particularly sanctioned path.

One thing worth noting was that even if the morning sun might have breached the cliffs responsible for Watson Falls, the falls itself might still be in shadow by the time you get to the end of the trail (so don’t give up).

Watson_Falls_061_07142016 - Looking up at as much of Watson Falls as I could possible capture from the end of the official trail
Looking up at as much of Watson Falls as I could possible capture from the end of the official trail

Once we had our fill of Watson Falls, we had a choice of returning to the trailhead.

On the one hand, we could have gone straight at the trail junction on an unscenic straightshot trail that forked to the left.

Or, we could have gone back the way we came up to re-experience the scenery all over again.

We’ve done it both ways, and for the most part, in each method we’ve tried, we’ve taken around an hour away from the car (suggesting that the hike was probably on the order of a mile round trip).

Authorities

Watson Falls resides in the Umpqua National Forest near Medford in Douglas 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.

Watson_Falls_009_07142016 - We noticed these picnic tables alongside Watson Creek near the parking lot, which were very inviting if not for the mosquitos that conspired to prevent us from totally having a relaxing experience during our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_011_07142016 - Going up steps between the Watson Falls Trailhead parking and the road splitting its trail in July 2016
Watson_Falls_014_07142016 - Initially the Watson Falls Trail was well-shaded and surrounded by tall trees and ferns as seen on our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_015_07142016 - Dad continuing on the uphill Watson Falls Trail, which remained well shaded and forested at the start of our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_017_07142016 - This was a pretty popular trail so we were often passed by faster hikers during our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_026_07142016 - This was one of the spots along the trail where we spotted Watson Falls, but this spot was fronted by an attractive bouldery cascade as seen in July 2016
Watson_Falls_031_07142016 - Looking more to the right of Watson Falls to reveal another segment of the cascade unseen in the prior photo on our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_032_07142016 - Focused on the width of the cascading tier near the footbridge where we got our first closer look at the Watson Falls in July 2016
Watson_Falls_033_07142016 - The trail continued climbing pretty relentless uphill on our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_042_07142016 - Partial view of Watson Falls from the footbridge as seen in July 2016
Watson_Falls_046_07142016 - The sun was starting to penetrate the vegetation and get onto the trail during our July 2016 visit, and it was at this point that my parents and I wondered whether we'd be screwed having to look against the sun at Watson Falls
Watson_Falls_054_07142016 - This was about the point where the climbing trail started to skirt away from Watson Creek as it was going up a final switchback before returning to the base of Watson Falls
Watson_Falls_055_07142016 - Context of the trail near the end and a hint of Watson Falls above the trees as seen on our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_065_07142016 - Context of my parents at the end of the Watson Falls Trail checking out the waterfall itself in July 2016 (seven years after Julie and I first saw it in August 2009)
Watson_Falls_074_07142016 - Full context of the Watson Falls (or at least as much of it that I could capture on our mid-July 2016 visit)
Watson_Falls_085_07142016 - When we did this hike in July 2016 with my parents (seven years after Julie and I did it in August 2009), we opted to go back the way we came instead of completing the loop like the first time I did this with Julie (note the switchback) as we thought the scenery was much more interesting going this way
Watson_Falls_091_07142016 - Back at the footbridge though it seemed like part of it showed some signs of damage which we noticed on the return hike from Watson Falls in July 2016
Watson_Falls_094_07142016 - Dad going back through the forested sections of the lower parts of the Watson Falls Trail in July 2016
Watson_Falls_100_07142016 - Dad returning to the trailhead parking area to finish off our July 2016 visit
Watson_Falls_007_08212009 - Crossing Road 37 to get onto the all uphill trail to Watson Falls during our August 2009 visit
Watson_Falls_011_08212009 - Crossing a footbridge over Watson Creek en route to Watson Falls on our August 2009 visit
Watson_Falls_019_08212009 - Julie taking photos of Watson Falls as we went higher up the trail in August 2009
Watson_Falls_025_08212009 - Julie checking out Watson Falls from the end of the trail on our first visit in August 2009
Watson_Falls_028_08212009 - Another look up at the Watson Falls looking somewhat wispy during our first visit in late August 2009
Watson_Falls_034_08212009 - About to re-enter the dense forest after having our fill of Watson Falls on our August 2009 visit
Watson_Falls_039_08212009 - Looking back at Watson Falls near the end of the trail one last time before resuming our return hike in August 2009
Watson_Falls_042_08212009 - Looking back at the narrow trail that we were taking which went through a more-or-less unfeatured part of the loop to finish off the Watson Falls loop hike in August 2009
Watson_Falls_043_08212009 - Julie walking along Road 37 to return to the car park after having taken the direct path back from the base of Watson Falls to end our August 2009 visit

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The well-signed Watson Falls was in a pretty sparsely populated area of Southern Oregon (actually you can say this about the Crater Lake National Park vicinity in general).

It was also roughly 2.2 miles east of the more famous Toketee Falls along Hwy 138.

Watson_Falls_001_07142016 - The parents getting started on the hike up to the base of Watson Falls from its trailhead parking lot
The parents getting started on the hike up to the base of Watson Falls from its trailhead parking lot

Anyways, perhaps the nearest big town to the falls was Roseburg, which was roughly 60 miles to the west along Hwy 138.

This would be a very straightforward drive.

In our case, we made the two-hour drive from Medford (where we based ourselves) to get up to Watson Falls.

We’ll describe this driving route below.

Watson_Falls_012_07142016 - Crossing the road from the trailhead onto the Watson Falls Trail itself
Crossing the road from the trailhead onto the Watson Falls Trail itself

From the I-5/Hwy 62 exit in Medford, we took the Crater Lake Hwy (Hwy 62) for roughly 54 miles to a signed junction.

Instead of turning right to continue on Hwy 62 towards Crater Lake, we kept left to go onto Hwy 230, which then continued for almost 24 miles to a junction with the Hwy 138.

We turned left to go north onto Hwy 138, which then bypassed the Diamond Lake Resort and eventually curved west towards the well-signed turnoff for Watson Falls (Road 37; near mile post 60.5) on the left after roughly 20 miles (30 minutes drive) from the Hwy 230/Hwy 138 junction.

Note that it was roughly an hour’s drive from Watson Falls to Crater Lake National Park.

Watson_Falls_006_07142016 - The parking lot for the Watson Falls Trail
The parking lot for the Watson Falls Trail

For some additional 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.

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360 degree sweep from the uppermost lookout of Watson Falls including a closeup look at the falling water


Bottom up sweep from the bridge over Watson Creek

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Tagged with: umpqua, national forest, roseburg, medford, oregon, waterfall, crater lake, national park, douglas



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Roger’s Pictures of Watson Falls October 28, 2013 11:14 pm by Roger Weight - We visited Watson Falls in the early summer of 2009. Watson falls is found on Watson Creek in the North Umpqua River drainage, in southern Oregon. Its Height is 302 feet and it is 20 feet wide. The falls hurtle over a cathedral amphitheater shaped wall of basalt, as you see in the pictures. It… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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