Deep Family, Deep Creek

As I lay in bed this morning, I was struck with a truly amazing occurrence.  It may not be that interesting to my readers but for a guy like me, who is 3000 miles from Pistol River, Oregon, this fact kind of plonked into my mind.

With my niece Clarissa, eight generations of my family have swum in the same river, and probably in the same swimming hole. EIGHT.  Starting with my great-great-great grandfather, and down to my grand-niece.

The place is called Deep Creek, and it’s five miles inland from the old Pistol River store in Curry County, Oregon. We never swam in Deep Creek itself. It’s a tangle of blackberry vines and willow saplings; besides, it’s only a few inches deep. The reason we call it Deep Creek, I am supposing, is because of the swimming hole just east of where the creek enters Pistol River. That’s where we swam–all eight generations of us.

Map courtesy of
Map courtesy of

Even on the hottest days of summer, Deep Creek is a cool place to dangle your feet; sometimes the coastal fog hasn’t even cleared by noon, causing mothers to warn their children to just wait awhile, and have something to eat before getting in the water. Deep Creek isn’t really worth the trouble if you don’t have a cooler of carbonated beverages, and several bags of chips.

Found at
Found at Facing northward to the rock outcropping and the true “deep” part.

The north side of the river is rocky at this location, and the water is contained by a shallow riffle.  Deep Creek is not approachable from the south without 4 wheel drive and considerable knowledge of old logging roads. However sunbathing is hard to do on the north side because of the tree cover and, well, most people don’t enjoy dinosaur egg-sized river rocks poking into their backs. Most families eventually lose their shoes, hike up their pants, and make the walk to the south bank, which is sandy and warm. I imagine that’s exactly what my 3rd Great Grandpa Jean Pierre did, with his grandchildren,  with his extremely severe gray beard wagging low to the ground, and of course his extremely ridiculous bathing suit. Wading around there is much more fun for kids in the silty river bottom, and it’s always a good place for a sleepy parent to enjoy the river sun, or just a bit of conversation while the kids cool off.

Facing downstream toward the Pacific Ocean. Taken from
Facing downstream toward the Pacific Ocean. Taken from Notice the sand on the left. Sand so good on feet!

But the ones who want a real challenge put on their tennis shoes, or (much like my ancestors probably did), grow steel calluses to brave the sharp outcropping on the north side. That is why the hole is called Deep Creek. During a good a good year (when winter rains have dredged out much of the silt), the river bottom is probably 20 feet (6 meters) by the rocks, and a sheer drop. You don’t risk clobbering yourself on the stony bottom (unless you’re an idiot diver, like some of my cousins who, I swear, were born part daredevil).  Once I dove from the ledge, having forgotten to take off my glasses and you can guess what happened next. I spent the next 45 minutes deep river diving, trying to find my glasses on the murky bottom.

There are fish down there! sometimes big ones.  Occasionally you’ll see an eel or a foundering white-bellied salmon, having spawned, and washing downriver at the end of its life. I don’t remember ever finding crawdads but I suppose there are a few of those too. And waterdogs, of course. Everyone loves waterdogs!

Yep! It's a waterdog!
Yep! It’s a waterdog!

It’s never wise to venture too far away, not because of mean creatures that might eat you (although you may encounter a black bear, a venomous deer or maybe even a few carnivore elk nearby), but because

Eight generations of my family have swum Pistol River. Here we are.
Eight generations of my family have swum Pistol River. Here we are.

(1) there’s poison oak and sharp blackberry brambles, even encroaching the rock outcropping and

(2) no public bathrooms or port-a-potties nearby which means people do their business behind whichever tree or bush is closest to them when their “urge” hits. Not much in the universe is worse than the feeling of stepping in someone else’s squishy butt-bomb, when you’re innocently finding your own location to drop trou and do the same to the next guy.

Which reminds me. If you ever find yourself at Deep Creek, bring a roll of TP (unless you have a hopelessly strong abiding love of wiping with leaves. If you do, remember the comment above about poison oak…). You will need the TP; if not you, one of your kids will.

It’s just cruel to go to Deep Creek and not bring your kids, and your TP. Also it’s cruel not to bring your cooler of beer and pop, and your chips. It’s how it’s done. It’s how I swam there, and my sons, and my grand-niece. It’s how 8 generations of my family swam there. Bring your kids. Make it a family thing. If we can do it for 130 years, so can you.


3 thoughts on “Deep Family, Deep Creek”

  1. Oh, Brian! You brought back all the memories! I can still see you and Lori jumping and swimming in your younger years. What a wonderful place to spend a hot summer day! And now your Grandniece, at the age of three, jumps in and swims to the shore! Carry on….generations to come!


  2. Loved this Brian, and can just see a lazy Oregon river and a bunch of kids playing in it. I’ve been to Curry County, seen the Pistol River. I’ve also seen the Rogue River at Gold Beach. LOVE that place! This really brought back memories, and great use of all three words!


  3. I have a similar – though not nearly so inter-generational – relationship to several swimming holes around the Rogue River. I love this sort of long-lasting connection to the land, if at least partly because I don’t have it.


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