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As It Was: Steamboat Creek Takes Name from Mining Jargon

Travelers often ponder its name when they visit the Steamboat Inn at the confluence of Steamboat Creek and the North Umpqua River, some 40 minutes east of Roseburg on State Route 138.

There is no way a wood-bottomed steamboat could have navigated the boulders and whitewater of the upper Umpqua River, much less the small creek.  Only a rough trail led to the area until a dirt road opened in 1927.  Today, it’s less than an hour’s drive on State Route 138 from Roseburg.   Also known as the North Umpqua Highway, the route is part of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway.

Steamboat’s naming may have its origin in mining jargon.  Gold miners who gave up their search when their expectations were not met were said “to have steamboats” out of the area.  By 1890, the name Steamboat had stuck to the area where the present-day inn is located.

The inn is perched on a bluff above a popular stretch of the river that continues to attract dedicated fly fishermen and weekend tourists seeking the outdoors.  Present-day anglers for spring Steelhead still gather around the long sugar-pine table in the dining room to swap stories.

Source: Woodward, Travis, and Melinda Woodward. Steamboat Inn, steamboatinn@hughes.net, 2018, https://www.thesteamboatinn.com/about. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.

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Emily Blakely has published poetry and prose, and frequently displayed framed works at the Umpqua Valley Arts Center as well as restaurants and libraries in the area. Her interest in writing for JPR’s "As It Was" program came from hearing Kernan Turner speak at her writer’s group meeting, and she has found it to be beneficial in developing her writing skill. Researching local history has become one of her favorite pastimes.