Cow Creek Back Country Byway is a 45-mile long route connecting the interstate, cities of Glendale, Riddle, and Tri City that allow you to make your loop-trip up or down the interstate I-5 more memorable. This scenic route winds along lower Cow Creek that joins the South Umpqua River 2 miles west of Canyonville. Upon your travel on the byway, you will encounter interpretive signs talking about the history of the area. You will learn about gold mining in the area, the history of the railroad built in 1869, and learn about the forgotten town of West Fork.
Cow Creek Back Country Byway is a two-lane road with logging trucks frequent on it. Pay attention and be alert on blind corners. Also, be advised that the railroad is still in use.
Multiple spots allow creek access and as a result potential for swimming and rockhounding. Those places include, but are not limited to Island Creek Day Use, Cow Creek Gold Panning spot, West Fork Historic Site, Skull Creek, Cow Creek Rest Area, and so on. Please be mindful of all of the signs. There are multiple private claims with no trespassing allowed. Also, federal claims prohibit gold panning for personal or commercial use.
According to BLM, the rights to the minerals on a mining claim do not include the surface rights to the land involved and the general public may access the site for other recreational uses such as swimming, wading, or even overnight camping, as long as the activity does not interfere with a claimant's ability to work their mining claim.
Island Creek Day Use Area
Located about 8 miles southwest of Riddle, Island Creek Day Use area provides fantastic outdoor opportunities in the scenic surrounding. This spot is great for picnicking, swimming, fishing, rockhounding, nature viewing, or simple relaxation. There is a picnic table and vault restroom.
Cow Creek Recreational Gold Prospecting
The creek contains gold and minerals that wash down from neighboring mountains during a heavy rainfall runoff. A recreational gold panning area, Cow Creek Recreation Area is located 21 miles southwest of Riddle. The 1,300-foot site allows public access for non-commercial gold panning and rockhounding.
West Fork & Cow Creek Railroad Bridges
Cow Creek Road passes through the old town of West Fork. Stop at interpretive signs and read about the history of the town of West Fork, about gold fever, and the historic railroad called the Siskiyou Line which was completed in 1882. Two steel girder bridges over West Fork and Cow Creek were built in 1905. The railroad served local mines and lumber companies, as well as residents of previously existing but now forgotten communities.
The railroad is still operating freight cars a few times every day.
Skull Creek Campground
Skull Creek Campground provides 5 camping sites on a first-come, first-served basis.