Thundering Waters - Oregon Cascade Falls User Guide
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Bureau of Land ManagementUnited States Forest Service
Past Lives at Waterfalls

Native American Indians living in the Umpqua Basin when trappers and settlers first arrived included the Yoncalla Kalapuya, Upper Umpqua, Upper Coquille, Southern Molalla and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua. Although the tribes spoke different languages and had different customs, their lifestyle had much in common.

During the winter, permanent villages were located in the lowland valleys. The cold, wet winter months were spent repairing tools that would be used during other times of the year.

With the arrival of spring, the Indians would dig camas and other edible roots and bulbs, harvest berries, and hunt game. During these months, salmon would run in nearby rivers. Fishing provided a large and dependable source of food.
Technologies were developed to harvest their reliable food source. Walls of stone or brush in the rivers would force the salmon into basket traps or shallow water where they could be caught with dip nets.

Fishing platforms were often placed near falls where dip nets, spears (leisters) or harpoons were used to catch fish. South Umpqua and Steamboat falls were areas where fishing platforms probably existed.

In the summer months, the people moved into the uplands, following the ripening plants to higher ground.

As fall approached, the Indians returned to the valley floor to harvest acorns and fish the fall salmon runs. The fish would be dried and smoked to ensure a winter supply of food.


Hemlock Falls Hemlock Falls
Hemlock Falls
Illustration of indian fishing with examples of different tools they used for fishing such as a Dipnet, Leister, and Harpoon.

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