Seizing the Serendipity in Prospect, Oregon

posted May 12, 2023 by Holly Hayes
My thirsty car at Rim Village, Crater Lake National Park.

As we drove out of Crater Lake National Park on a recent Saturday afternoon, it occurred to me that we may not have quite enough fuel to make it back to our rural Airbnb almost two hours away. (I'm not the greatest of planner-aheaders.)

Plowed road with piles of snow creating a sparkling white tunnel, Crater Lake National Park.

There's one gas station in the park, but many things are still closed this early in the season, so I wasn't terribly optimistic as we made our way there. Sure enough, the building was covered in snow up to the roof.

So we continued on our way, hopeful that we might be able to find something in one of the scattered small towns along the way. After about 45 minutes, we came to the small town of Prospect, which seemed like a good prospect.

Alas, there were signs only for food and lodging... but those amenities were only a mile off the road, so I thought I'd check for a gas station, just in case. And within a few blocks, a historic hotel came into view! It looks very cool and would make a great base for Crater Lake. Called simply Prospect Hotel, it dates from the 1880s.

Exterior view of the historic Prospect Hotel in Prospect, Oregon, USA.

We briefly walked around the hotel to check it out, then, right across the street, we spotted a sign for a gas station! Hooray! We drove about a half-mile down a side road and were thrilled to find it not only existed, but was open. The friendly man who filled our tank said we could continue down the side road to get back to the highway, rather than turning around.

Just a few miles down that side road, we crossed a cool bridge. So, I commented, "Cool bridge." I learned later that it's the North Fork Rogue River Bridge, which was once a covered bridge and was fully restored in 2012 to its 1930s appearance.

Cool bridge!

Then, as we crossed the cool bridge, I exclaimed, "Mountain!!" A beautiful snowy peak had appeared out of nowhere. This was a complete surprise, since we don't know the mountains in this part of Oregon.

Mountain! More specifically, Mount McLoughlin, one of the major volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range.

Being enthusiasts of serendipity, we decided to turn around and go back for better views of the bridge and mountain. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find somewhere to do this, but it was worth it.

As we drove the other direction back across the bridge, I looked to my left and yelled, "WATERFALL!!" We missed that the first time, since we were too busy ogling the mountain and bridge.

Spectacular rapids and waterfalls of the Upper Rogue River in spring.

You'd think I'd be used to such things, having lived in Oregon most of my life, but its natural beauty still blows me away. Having no idea any of these things existed - and nearly missing them entirely - made it even more magical.

Mist in the late evening sun

We parked at a trailhead on the north side of the bridge and had a wonderful time wandering around the bridge (traffic was extremely minimal), taking in the amazing views, and exploring some short trails to more viewpoints.

Panorama of Rogue River Bridge, Prospect, Oregon
A madrona tree frames Mount McLoughlin and springtime rapids of the Rogue River at the Avenue of the Boulders. View looking east from Mill Creek Drive Bridge. Prospect, Oregon, USA.

The waterfall is part of the upper Rogue River, flowing down what has been romantically named the "Avenue of the Boulders." It is not only spectacularly beautiful, but also an important geological site. The boulders that make the waterfall so dynamic and splashy (technical term) were thrown from Mount Mazama almost 8,000 years ago, forming Crater Lake. That's more than 20 miles away!

Avenue of the Boulders, Prospect, Oregon

This was only a small part of a fantastic weekend trip out of Salem: on Friday we wandered all over Eugene and Roseburg in the spring sunshine looking at (and eating and drinking in) historic buildings; Saturday we visited Crater Lake and Prospect; and on Sunday we made another stop in Eugene for lunch in a historic house. It was grand.

next: A Sunny, Snowy Spring Day at Crater Lake

previous: Historic Sites of the Southern Oregon Coast

Article Info

Page Title
Seizing the Serendipity in Prospect, Oregon
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
May 13, 2023
Last Updated
September 12, 2023