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North Fork Middle Fork

Water Ouzel


5.6 miles round trip
400 feet elevation gain
Open mid-April to early December
Use: hikers, horses 

Left: Water Ouzel

This remarkably level trail through a lovely old-growth grove leads to a crossing of the Willamette River’s wildest branch: the North Fork Middle Fork, the untamed outlet of Waldo Lake. Because this is one of the lowest valley trails in the High Cascades, it harbors some of the range’s biggest trees and some relatively early blooming woodland wildflowers.

From Interstate 5 ...

After another mile the path crosses the outlet creek of the distant Erma Bell Lakes and enters the Willamette’s delta at the head of the valley swamp. Looming beside the trail are some of the largest red cedar trees in Oregon—10 feet in diameter. The river here braids through the woods in channels that change with each flood. Trail maintenance crews do their best to flag a passable route through the confusion, using downed trees as bridges. This is a great place to find a quiet spot among the big trees, break out the lunchbox, and watch the river rushing past. You’re almost certain to see a water ouzel here. These dark gray, robin-sized birds “fly” underwater to peck insect larvae from the bottoms of whitewater streams.

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