Jawbone Flats, once a thriving mining community, now exists primarily as an education center within the Opal Creek Wilderness. Rustic, historic structures are scattered throughout this town-like place. Its charm is sure to affect any outdoorsman given its setting, history, isolation, and overall mission. Among a rare, uncut old-growth forest, guests are fully surrounded by the tall trees. Relics left behind from the miners dot the landscape. Because it is 3 miles from the nearest trailhead and without any cell service, being off the grid is the only option. Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center is a non-profit organization that operates Jawbone Flats.
The earliest known history of the area dates back 2,000 years. It is believed that the Santiam Molalla tribe once used Jawbone Flats as a summer camp. In 1859 gold was discovered here, and mining began. An organized operation led by the Amalgamated Mining Company began building here in 1930 and processed lead, zinc, copper, and silver. Mining was not very profitable, and after snow damaged buildings in the 1950s the ownership slowly changed hands. In the 1960s and 1970s the Shiny Rock Mining Company rebooted the mining operation. In the 1970s and 1980s there was talk of logging the Opal Creek Wilderness. Activists stepped in, and the Friends of Opal Creek was organized. In 1989, permanent protection was enacted on the area. The Shiny Rock Co. ceased mining in 1992. The land, valued at $12.6 million, was gifted to the Friends of Opal Creek. The area then received federal protection under multiple forest designations. Jawbone Flats now receives 20,000 visitors annually. Today the area is maintained in a condition that is as close as possible to its original condition thanks to the admirable efforts of the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center.
After making your reservation, complete information regarding the details of your stay will be sent to you. Hiking the 3 miles into Jawbone Flats is part of the experience. This is the same trail that hikers use to access Opal Pool. With new forest service regulations, parking is limited. However, those with reservations at Jawbone Flats are given a designated parking area. A shuttle can meet guests at the trailhead to provide transportation of gear and to those who are unable to complete the hike. Prior arrangements must be made. All guests are expected to provide their own bedding: A sleeping bag is recommended, while sheets and pillows are provided.
This community is completely off the grid. Power is provided by a hydroelectric generator, which is the same method that provided power to the miners in the 19th century. Although it is being replaced, a pelton wheel is utilized, which relies on the force of the water to power the generator.
Guests may choose to eat at the main lodge. Most meals are vegetarian, and dietary restrictions are honored with advanced notice. The pricing varies, but it is reasonable considering the quality of the food. Given the buffet-style service, guests are notified of mealtime by a triangle dinner bell.
Built in 1928, Cabin 1 is full of history. It's obvious to see how much care and effort has gone into maintaining this structure in its original condition as best as possible. Basic amenities including running water, periodic electricity, and a gas water heater. For heat, an old wood stove must be maintained by the renter. Wood is delivered by staff. A small kitchen allows renters to prepare their own meals. A hard-sided plastic container with a lid is provided for food storage to prevent rodents from partaking. (Part of the authentic, historic experience includes hearing rodents in the walls.) Drinking water is provided in a water cooler, while water from a creek feeds the internal plumbing. This cabin is ideal for single families with sleeping options for four.
These cabins were built in 1998 using wood that was horse-logged and milled on site. They feature much more modern amenities. Ideal for big groups, each sleeps 16 people and can be rented out completely, or a bunk will be given during a class.
Similar amenities as the above cabins with the ability to sleep 10. This cabin is an original structure remodeled in 2007.
Many types of classes are held here, including Outdoor School, NOLS Wilderness Medicine classes, photography workshops, and even wilderness expeditions, just to name a few. Because of this, there is limited availability for the public to rent out each cabin. It is recommended that guests of Jawbone Flats register for one of the many classes that are offered.
The uniqueness of this place is quite charming. It is obvious that the staff care thoroughly about their mission, and they act as stewards of the fragile ecosystem. Enjoy this place and wander its many nearby trails. Allow yourself to thoroughly explore this uncut wilderness and be a steward yourself.
Note that the generator is being replaced and the community relies on gas-powered generators to provide electricity. As a result, power interruptions are common, especially in the busy summer months.