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Wooden Shelter Remains at Dead Indian Soda Springs

Today only a Forest Service wooden shelter from the 1930s remains at the Dead Indian Soda Springs historic site along Little Butte Creek east of Eagle Point, Ore.

The Takelma Indians knew the springs, but Western settlers didn’t until an elk hunter “rediscovered” them in 1871. They became a popular camping spot for Southern Oregon residents for the next 30 years. 

After the turn of the century, the Tyrell family built a house near the springs.  They served strawberries bathed in cream from their own cow, to overnight campers.  Later, Charles Wilkinson bought the Tyrell house, and developed the site as a vacation destination. 

In the 1920s, Lou Ellis Bean bottled the spring water and sold it to Brown’s Tavern in Medford.  During the Great Depression, workers for the federal Emergency Relief Administration built a stone path, footbridge, fountain, and benches at the site.  In 1936, the U.S. Forest Service constructed a wooden shelter and created a rustic picnic area with a telephone switchboard.

Little Butte Creek floods washed away the stonework in 1955 and 1964, but the wooden shelter remains standing today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 


Sources: Atwood, Kay. Recollections: People and the Forest, Oral History Interviews. Vol. 1: Rogue River National Forest, 1980. Print;  Bean, Lou Ellis. World War 1 Draft Registration Card, 1917-1918.  United States. Dead Indian Soda Springs Interpretive Sign: Rogue River National Forest.

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.