Soda Springs

Photos and story by Thom Larkin

The Rogue Valley's Hike of the Week

Soda Springs

How to Get There:

From Ashland, take Dead Indian Memorial Road and just before milepost 14, turn left onto Conde Creek Road and go 11.3 miles to the junction with South Fork Little Butte Creek Road. Turn right and go about 3.8 miles to a small turnout on the right, just before the entrance to Camp Latgawa. Then follow signs to the Soda Springs trailhead.


"These soda springs are the result of groundwater percolating through subterranean deposits that are rich in sodium carbonate, iron, magnesium, and sodium hydroxide. The springs were undoubtedly known to the Takelma Indians of the region. Although there are folklore tales about their use of the springs, it is uncertain whether they actually ever drank the water for healthful purposes.

The term "Dead Indian Creek" dates from the 1850s. This name also has attracted much folklore over the years. The most likely story of the name's origin relates that Ashland-area settlers encountered a camp near the head of this creek and found the bodies of several Takelma or Shasta Indian men there who had died shortly before, either from disease or from a raid by another Indian group. There is no indication that the name was given with derogatory intent.

The springs remained undiscovered by white settlers until 1871, when John Tyrrell chased a wounded elk up the remote canyon and stopped here to quench his thirst. The "health-giving" qualities attributed to the mineral water brought increasing numbers of local people to the springs each yeah. By the 1890s, Dead Indian Soda Springs was a popular camping spot for many Rogue Valley residents. After 1900, Charles Wilkinson built a home and several small rental cabins near the mouth of Dead Indian Creek (the structures that remain are now part of "Latgawa Camp"). In the 1920s, Lou Bean obtained bottling rights to the spring and sold the water to Brown's Tavern in Medford.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal put many jobless men to work in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Local men hired by the Emergency Relief Administration constructed an elaborate rock-work foundation here at the springs in 1935-6. It consisted of a pathway leading over an arched footbridge to a large, walled "plaza" with drinking fountain and stone benches. This fountain served thirty visitors for many years, until the great floods of 1955 and 1964 swept away all but a few traces of the rock-work pathway that still remain."


Rogue River National Forest Sign

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