But where there is destruction, there is also rebirth, and Southern Oregon has emerged stronger after the fires. Dining, entertainment, wineries, and shopping in Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville were unaffected by fires and remain fully open. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the reconstruction of trail networks; food lovers will enjoy exploring newly reopened restaurants and wineries in the towns of Talent and Phoenix. Here’s what you can expect in the 2022 travel year.
Simple Machine Winery
In the Regions Affected by the Almeda Fire:
The Almeda Fire swept through the Bear Creek corridor parallel to Highway 99 and I-5 between Ashland and Medford in September 2020, affecting primarily urban areas of homes and businesses. In the 16 months since, reconstruction, new construction, and the return of local businesses have helped to heal the scarred land and the morale of the Phoenix and Talent, Oregon, communities.
While visitors will still witness the effects of the fire along Highway 99, they will also find new and returning businesses. These include a brand-new tasting room for Simple Machine Winery, with a walk-up window and plenty of shaded outdoor seating in Talent, and the new Catalyst Wine Collective, a collaboration between three local wineries: Goldback Wines, Sound & Vision Wine Co., and Ryan Rose Wines. The latter is tucked next to Clyde’s Corner in Phoenix, known for wood-fired gourmet pizza, craft cocktails and a lively outdoor scene, cueing up a perfect afternoon of wine tasting followed by alfresco dining. The Bear Creek Greenway from Medford to Ashland is fully open, allowing visitors to stroll or cycle as they witness the regrowth for themselves, as well as commemorative metal sculptures and watercolor paintings created by students from Talent Middle School and Phoenix High School.
Restaurants in Talent are thriving again. Pump House brewpub provides a lively, heated patio atmosphere; a diverse rotation of beers, ciders and kombucha; and smothered fries and tots worth every calorie. Nearby, Gather Cafe, Bistro and Bar combines an eclectic mix of world cuisines ranging from grain and veggie bowls to biryani and Southern fried chicken.
Tree planting at Collier Memorial State Park (Photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)
In the Regions Affected by the 242 Fire:
The Chiloquin area and the Fremont-Winema National Forest were heavily impacted by the 242 Fire that broke out around the same time as the Almeda Fire. While most trails and recreation areas of the Fremont-Winema National Forest are open to visitors at this time, burned trees, downed trees and ash can be present, and conditions can change. It’s always a good idea to check the website or give the ranger district a call before a visit. In addition, this interactive map of emergency fire closures is always updated.
Collier Memorial State Park, a 579-acre park in Klamath County, was heavily damaged by the 242 Fire, leaving a massive cleanup operation in its wake. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is working closely with the Klamath Tribes to select plants with ecological and cultural value, including Douglas fir, western larch, quaking aspen, red osier dogwood, Great Basin wild rye, golden currant, chokecherry and elderberry. Volunteers plan to plant as many as 60,000 ponderosa seedlings in 2023.
The campground at Collier remains closed until summer 2022 at the earliest, and restoration work will continue for several years. Campers will want to keep an eye on the website for updates.
“We still have much to rebuild in the campground, like the woodshed, and some repaving,” explains Terra Kemper, a park ranger with OPRD. “When the campground reopens, hiking will be limited, as many of our trails will be closed until they are repaired.”
In the Regions Affected by the Bootleg Fire:
Employees are actively working in and around the area burned by the Bootleg Fire to ensure reopening at the earliest safe opportunity. The largest among the recent wildfires in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, the Bootleg Fire was ignited July 6, 2021, and burned 413,765 acres before being fully contained August 15. All roads, recreation sites, trails and facilities within its footprint (or fire perimeter) remain closed until at least August 31, 2022, while repair and rehabilitation work continues. This includes OC and E Woods Line State Trail, which remains closed until further notice.
The good news is the Bootleg footprint represents only a small section of the Fremont-Winema National Forest’s 2.3 million acres. Most acreage remains open, including the Sky Lakes Wilderness, where pristine hiking and backcountry camping can be found, and the campgrounds and facilities at Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake, both nestled under the shadow of Mt. McLoughlin. A list of every open campground and trail can be found here.
The Steamboat Inn (Photo by Stevi Syler)
In the Regions Affected by the Slater Fire:
While there have technically been no closures due to the Slater Fire, Scott Blower, district ranger with the Wild Rivers Ranger District, does not recommend recreating within the footprint of the fire, as the damage was significant to trails and roadways.
He does recommend the trail systems in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, which are maintained by the Siskiyou Mountain Club, and the hiking and recreating in the Illinois River corridor. Mountain biking enthusiasts will also find newly maintained trails awaiting them in the Bridges trail system.
In the Regions Affected by the Archie Creek Fire:
The Fall Creek Falls National Recreation Trail in the Umpqua National Forest is currently still closed to visitors due to the Archie Creek Fire; however, the iconic Steamboat Inn on the North Umpqua River is currently slated for a March 11, 2022 opening for its regular season of fly-fishing and gourmet wining and dining. The Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway – popularly known as the ‘waterfall highway’ – is open to road trippers. Visitors should note, however, that some stops, including Camp Comfort Campground and Umpqua Hot Springs Trailhead and Day Use Area, remain closed. Toketee Falls and Diamond Lake Resort are currently welcoming visitors.
For those looking to recreate in this area, the best resources for up-to-date information can be found at Umpqua National Forest.
Story by Amy Hagstrom