Devil's Staircase Wilderness

Devil's Staircase from the airDeep in the heart of Oregon's coastal rainforest, nestled between the Smith and Umpqua rivers, lies the Devil's Staircase Wilderness. This is a place so remote and inaccessible it has escaped the chainsaws which have decimated so much of the old-growth forests in the Coast Range in the last century.

In fact, this area is so remote, that the wilderness proposal (see map in pdf) derives its name from a rarely seen, almost mythical waterfall: "The Devil's Staircase." This series of cascading pools is buried deep in the heart of the Wassen Creek area and takes more than a day's trek to get there (if you can find it)!

The Forest Service has long recognized the value of the Devil's Staircase area as a wild, unroaded place. But half of the proposed Wilderness is managed by the BLM - which has not identified the area as Wilderness-worthy. On BLM land, some of the area is considered an "Area of Critical Environmental Concern", but this offers little real protection. In fact, under a draft of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR), the BLM would have put huge tracts of the Wassen Creek area into intensive timber management. Fortunately for this Coast Range gem, requirements to protect the Northern spotted owl have taken the area off the chopping block in the final WOPR.

"Wassen Creek deserves no less than the highest protection that can be afforded under law." -former Congressman Jim Weaver

About Devil's Staircase:

Blanketed with huge Douglas-fir, cedar and hemlock, Wassen Creek has the last remaining old-growth forests in the coastal mountains. The cascading waters of Wassen Creek support native coho and chinook salmon, trout and steelhead runs. Black bears, elk, deer, river otter, spotted owls and marbled murrelets live as they have for thousands of years sequestered in this remnant of Oregon's coastal forest. Devil's Staircase waterfallWith the highest density of northern spotted owls in the Coast Range, the Devil's Staircase Wilderness Proposal is critical to the recovery of this threatened species.

The forest soils are mostly classified as the most landslide-prone soil type in Oregon and among the most unstable in the world. Unstable soils so plagued early efforts to log in the vicinity of Wassen Creek that, in the 1970s, the U.S. Forest Service withdrew from timber management all land between the Smith and Umpqua rivers, including Wassen Creek.

More information & resources:

Send a letter to Oregon elected officials urging protection of this wild Coast Range gem.

Find out more about the Devil's Staircase in this printable Fact Sheet.

Watch the Oregon Field Guide segment featuring a trek to the Devil's Staircase waterfall.

See more pictures and learn details about the Devil's Staircase area - including directions and cautionary tales - at the coalition's webpage:

Devil's Staircase tree

Aerial photo and waterfall photo by Tim Giraudier/Headwaters Photographic. Tree photo by Kristian Skyback.