The Archie Creek Fire swept through the heart of a beloved province within Douglas County.
Even a year later, the shock from the fire is strongly felt. For certain, the Archie Creek Fire was the most destructive in scale and scope in local history. The true sting, however, is from the special places the fire impacted. Glide’s green bridge stands as a gateway to the land of the North Umpqua — as rich in history as it is in natural beauty and bounty. Many of our favorite places were grotesquely transformed by the fire and will not look the same for generations. But in the ashes of the Archie Creek Fire are the still-glowing embers of history.
For thousands of years, Indian people moved up and down the river. They left their marks on rocks and in caves and fished the same places we do now. Some of their bones are still in the ground, on flat benches overlooking the river. Most of them were removed to far-off reservations elsewhere in Oregon. There were no battles when the settlers arrived and re discovered the North Umpqua region for themselves.
The Glide area originally took its name from a large rock where a ferry transported settlers across the emerald river and into the wilderness. They first called it “Union Rock” and later renamed it “Lone Rock” to sidestep Civil War sensitivities. They called the land on the far side of the river a “Free State” — a forested Shangri-La offering freedom, refuge and opportunity. Settlers called their communities Hoaglin and Tioga, names that can still be found on old maps but otherwise vanished with time.
Exactly 50 years before the Archie Creek Fire, local historian Lavola McMillen Bakken wrote “Lone Rock Free State” — a collection of “historical adventures and incidents” in the North Umpqua Valley between 1850 to 1910. In truth, her brief, green-bound book told a longer story reaching back thousands of years into Indian history and culture, through early European settlement and into the modern era. Bakken’s grandfather was a Civil War veteran who homesteaded west of Rock Creek.
Highway 138, log trucks and the power lines from Toketee were new arrivals to Lone Rock Free State in Bakken’s time. She understood the importance of documenting the stories she heard as a child. With charm and humor, her book memorialized people like Mace Tipton — the last “chief” of the Umpqua Indians, and Tip Hill, a solitary, widowered carpenter who built multiple fish hatcheries along the North Umpqua River. Equally important, Bakken’s book captured the spirit of Glide — a community of hard-working, resilient people who come together in times of need.
The Archie Creek Fire seemed confined to the area that was called Lone Rock Free State, if it ever had boundaries. The tall Sugar Pines — witnesses of the last Indians and first settlers — have finally succumbed to flame. With them, many of the historic vestiges of Lone Rock Free State are lost.
Special places like Fall Creek Falls were devastated by the fire. Wildflowers and ferns will populate the site, rising from the charred remains of trees older than the state of Oregon. Slowly and differently, these places will come back. That is the price and process of fire.
While the Archie Creek fire tested and tempered Glide’s resolve, it proved that the Lone Rock spirit lives on. It resides in the first responders, loggers and firefighters who rushed into harm’s way to hold the fire at bay. It manifests in those who still work every day helping fire victims find food, housing and other resources. This special edition takes the tragedy of the Archie Creek Fire to tell some of these stories, past and present.
Shangri-La is not supposed to burn, but ours did. It will again someday. In the meantime, homes and lives are still being rebuilt. New forests are being planted, though we will not see their maturity.
But some things will never change. Lavola Bakken concluded her book by stating that Lone Rock Free State is not just the best place:
Lavola Bakken concluded her book by stating that Lone Rock Free State is not just the best place: “it’s the only place to be. It’s part climate, part good neighbors, part heritage, but most of all—it’s home.”