October 2003: Jacksonville Woodlands


Jacksonville, Oregon

Gold was discovered in Oregon's Jackson Creek in 1851 but it brought neither fame nor fortune to the prospector, a lone miner remembered today only as "Mr. Sykes." Gold fever ignited soon enough and within two years there were thousands of men tediously pulling flakes and nuggets from area creek beds. Jacksonville's first brick buildings were in place by 1853 as the town thrived. It even became the county seat but when the Oregon & California Railroad headed for nearby Medford in 1887 and bypassed Jacksonville the good times ground to a halt. Jacksonville residents built their own railroad four years later but the struggling line was dismantled and sold in 1925. During the Depression struggling residents dug deeper into the ground under the town to extract a few dollars of gold to survive. Not much happened in town after that. So little changed, in fact, that the entire downtown was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

In 1989, Jacksonville residents formed the Jacksonville Woodlands Association to preserve and protect the quiet forests on the slopes surrounding the town. Most explorations of the Jacksonville Woodlands will start in town along the Zigler Trail, a flat one-mile journey along the Jackson Creek where gold was discovered in 1851. A detailed brochure tells the fascinating story and makes for a prolonged walk with the dog. Strollers will want to turn around at the footbridge and retrace your pawprints but adventurous canine hikers will turn left and climb the ridges and canyons above the town. The 3-mile Rich Gulch Trail leads to a panoramic view of the town and countryside.

On the east end of town, behind the country Gothic house built by apprentice carpenter-turned-pioneer banker Cornelius Beekman in 1873, you will find the Beekman Canyon Loop. The trail begins and ends in a small arboretum that displays eight distinct bio-habitats found in the region. The trail climbs somewhat steeply through light woods before descending back into the Beekman Garden.

After hiking through the peaceful Jacksonville Woodlands, be sure to take your dog on a walk through town. More than 80 original brick and wooden buildings from the 1800s are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can continue just outside of town into the Jacksonville Cemetery that has been in use for over 150 years. Dogs are as welcome in Jacksonville today as they were in the mining camps of yesteryear - there is a water bowl placed for dogs outside the Visitor Information kiosk.

Dogs For The Deaf (10175 Wheeler Road in Central Point, 541-826-9220). You can tour the training center of the oldest and largest Hearing Dog training and placement service. You can visit these special dogs in the kennels where they live during the 4 to 6 months of intensive training required to become a Hearing Dog and watch an actual training session.

Jacksonville is located on Route 238 off of I-5 out of Grants Pass to the north or Medford from the south.