I remember camping here a lot as a child. My family and my parent’s friends found refuge in the beauty and coolness of the Imnaha Springs area in the Summer time. As children, we found a lot of ways to get into trouble. When your parents are outdoor tent camping and letting you run wild, that takes some effort!
One of the most dramatic memories I have involves washing the camp dishes in the creek. My mother sent my sister and I down after dinner for our camp chore. It was right before dark and there was a long trail through the woods that lead to the opening on the creek. We had heard many stories from the adults at night about cougars in the area. I walked ahead of my younger sister, ready to get the job done quickly and return to the campfire, where our parents and friends sat telling tall tales. The further down the trail we got, the quieter it became. My sister was lagging behind and I was in a hurry. I reached the creek and began scrubbing the leftovers from the pots and silverware.
My sister seemed to be walking very slowly because I was almost done and she still wasn’t in sight. Then… I heard it. A moaning and scratching sound coming from the group of trees on the mound above the creek clearing. I sat still and waited. Again, a quiet growl. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. My sister was somewhere on the path and she must be close to that area now. I remembered hearing that you are supposed to make a lot of noise and appear as big as possible. I had no time! I grabbed up the pots and utensils and began clanging them together as hard as I could.
As much as I was in fear of my life, I had to get to my sister. I climbed the path towards the group of trees where the cat was lurking, in between me and my sister and the safety of the camp. I yelled and held the pots above my head, shaking them vigorously. As I rounded the corner I entered the darkness of the tall trees and saw nothing. I stomped towards the sound, waiting for my eyes to adjust.
And then … out pops my sister, laughing hysterically! I’m still not sure how she survived the walk back to camp.
My fondest memories, by far, are of the springs themselves. Where the water starts fresh, untainted by the miles of stream bed down stream. The air is pure and there are wildflowers surrounding you. The path is covered in moss and it welcomes bare feet. It is a place of renewal.
This summer, I returned. This time I brought my own children. The trees have grown, but the paths seems shorter and the night time more welcoming.
To visit, from Medford take 62 to towards Shady Cove, and turn right on to Butte Falls Hwy. Pass through Butte Falls and less than a mile from town, turn left onto the Butte Falls-Prospect Highway. Turn right on Forest Service Road 34 and go 8 miles until its junction with Forest Service Road 37. Travel North on Forest Service Road 37 for 5 miles. Take Imnaha Campground turn-off and continue through campground to find the cabin which has parking for the Imnaha Springs visitors.