Stop off at the northwest corner of Waldo Lake and you may notice a creek extending from the finger and draining the lake’s chilly blue waters. The North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River (the river’s official name) starts with wild intentions, dropping 2,400 feet in its first 3 miles! Its flow increases and its course mellows just a little as after it’s joined by some powerful tributaries that also drain the Willamette Foothills. Judging from the pedigree of the parent, you may expect beautiful things form the Middle Fork North Fork, and you’d be absolutely right. This is a stunning river that carves through remote and wild country, earning a scenic designation from the state and a wild and scenic designation from the federal government along many stretches. The river flows through the small town of Westfir and joins the Middle Fork Willamette before being corralled in Lookout Point Reservoir. Thankfully, a trail system allows visitors to explore some of the wild sections of river, and road access makes enjoying the water relatively easy for fishermen and swimming hole aficionados.
Just 1.4 miles from the covered bridge at Westfir sits the first of several great swimming holes on the Middle Fork North Fork. No spot is labeled along North Fork Road/NF-19, so resetting your odometer at the bridge to keep track of your distance is critical. You’ll see a small turnout on the left side of the road at 1.4 miles and a small trail diving into the thick forest understory. The trail quickly emerges at the river and a sublime blue-green pool that’s ideal for relief from the summer heat. There is room enough for a few visitors on a rocky shore on river left just upstream from the trail, and the opposite shore has a small beach in the shade. Be cautious of the currents from the rapid upstream of the pool, which is definitely powerful enough to be a hazard to swimmers. And as you bask in the beauty of this remote spot, don’t forget to keep an eye out for poison oak along the bank.
Rivers like this are unusual and uniquely vulnerable to damage from inconsiderate users. Please do your part to protect this place; as you’re packing out what you pack in, grab any other litter you see lying around, and stick to established trails to avoid damaging the soil and vegetation.
If this area is a little too busy when you arrive or you are looking for more swimming opportunities, check out: