Two prominent rivers that reach the ocean a hundred miles apart after long, sinuous journeys define the parameters of Southern Oregon. The Umpqua and Rogue Rivers, steeped in history, originate high in the Cascade Range before eventually leveling in their namesake valleys to provide lifeblood to agriculture, industry, and the alluring communities that make visiting Southern Oregon so appealing.
Southern Oregon Festivals – Top USA Festivals Photo Gallery
Southern Oregon comprises five counties: Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Coos, and Curry (the latter two are coastal and are covered in the next section). Ashland anchors the southern end of the Rogue Valley. This vibrant community is renowned for its bustling arts scene that is highlighted every year by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Only the multilayered Portland Rose Festival draws more people. North of Ashland, the town of Medford, the Jackson County seat, basks in the sun, averaging almost 200 blue-sky days per year. Grants Pass straddles the Rogue River and is the gateway to the famous federally designated Wild and Scenic section of this rugged river. At the north end of the Southern Oregon region, Roseburg butts up against oak-covered hills that stair-step down from the Cascades in the Umpqua River drainage.
With warmer weather and longer summers than the Willamette Valley to the north, Southern Oregon vintners can cultivate wine grape varieties that produce big, bold reds. Oregon’s wine industry gained its fame through pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley, but in recent years, Southern Oregon wines—merlots and cabs, Italian and Spanish varietals, dry white wines—have gained widespread accolades. Southern Oregon is also an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca largely without the crowds found on the trails, rivers, and lakes of the Willamette Valley. Whitewater rafting, fishing for salmon and steelhead, hiking little-known trails, and other such opportunities abound in the region.
Fully enjoying Southern Oregon requires a commitment of time—ideally, a long weekend to take in a festival would be combined with an exploration of the area’s many other attractions and activities. Along the way, expect to discover hidden gems—incredible hiking opportunities off the beaten path, boutique wineries and craft breweries few people know about, historical sites divulging intriguing details about the region’s oft-tumultuous past, and of course a variety of interesting celebratory festivals.
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