Monday, July 21, 2008


I am sure if you live in  Bend you have been to Tumalo Falls. It is a jewel. Yesterday when I was there it looked liked half of Bend was there to see the falls. The parking lot was full, actually overflowing. Families were hiking up to the overlook to see the Falls from the top.
This place has a special memory for me. In the summer of 1979 I was working for the Forest Service. I was the Bend Fireman on the Fort Rock Ranger District. I got a call. There was a large black column of Smoke in the Bend Watershed. I quickly got in my truck and raced up to Skyliner Road to Tumalo Falls. On the way I could see the growing column, but when I got to the Falls it was no longer visible because of all the trees and the canyon walls. As I drove the last three miles of gravel road I was in a dense Douglas fir forest, the cliffs on the north side of the Canyon were covered in moss. It was like a westside oasis close to Bend.
There were three of us who arrived at the Tumalo Parking lot at the same time. There was already a crew of Smokejumpers on the fire about two miles up. We parked our trucks facing out, leaving the keys in them. We hiked up the Bridge Creek trail to see if we could stop this roaring fire. We got up maybe a mile when we realize the noise we were hearing was not the local freight train but the fire heading down hill towards us. We crossed over Bridge Creek and went sat right at the edge. This was our only safety zone. The fire roared by. We kept the fire from jumping across the creek to the west of us but it crossed below us and up the hill it went. We dug fireline on the western edge to keep it from reversing direction if the wind would change. Today if you hike up Bridge Creek you can see where the fire burned up the hill. 
After a long night,and lots of work we were relieved of our duty 28 hours after we got there. We hiked down Bridge Creek. It was burnt logs, stumps and black soil. This was different place. When we got to the Tumalo Creek parking lot there was an oasis of trees left. Another crew had arrived after us and stayed there, using our trucks (they all had water pumps) kept spraying the trees, the buildings etc while the fire destroyed everything around. On the drive out I was amazed at the difference. No longer a west side like forest. Just burned trees everywhere. This was one hot fire. 
Now when I go up to Tumalo Falls, either on the south side trail or the road it looks like Central Oregon. The cliffs are dry rock, the trees are pine, the vegetation is manzanita and deer brush. It is still beautiful, but I will always remember it the way it was. 
This blog morphed into something from what it started to be. The photo is of one of the many falls you will see on the North Fork of Tumalo Creek. Most people seem to stop at the top of Tumalo Falls. The next time keep going. You will be amazed. This is also what the whole canyon looked like before 1979. 
Thanks for sharing my memory.

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