Oregon Map

Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua

Douglas County


Douglas County, 97469

In the 1950's Riddle was a lumbering town very much like Myrtle Creek. The national prosperity of the 1960's was not shared here either and almost all of the small saw mills closed. But Riddle's luck was not all bad like so many other small lumbering towns. The industry giant Roseburg Lumber decided in the 1960's to base part of its operation here, along with the main plant in Dillard. Workers came from all the small towns around for employment. Another chapter in the Riddle story is unlike anywhere else in the United States. After the Korean war the Federal government became acutely aware that the US had no domestic production of nickel which is considered a strategic metal. It is used to harden iron to make steel and to make stainless steel. Just west of Riddle in the Coast Range is a place called Nickel Mountain. The nickel ore there was only 1.5% nickel compared to up to 25% nickel at foreign mines, but the feds wanted domestic nickel production. The US government subsidized the formation and operation of the Hanna Nickel Mining Co. which mined the ore and smelted it on site. The plant and mine employed about 700 people in the early days and provided much needed income to an area with shrinking timber revenue. Even though the government terminated the subsidies in the late 1960's the smelter survived until the late 1990's although the employment levels dropped greatly in the later years. The smelter has been scrapped now. There remains a huge hole in the top of Nickel Mountain where the ore was extracted and a very large stack of both ore reject and slag on the old smelter site. Riddle is the gateway to the Cow Creek drainage area which would be like any other middle sized creek after all the timber had been stripped except for one thing. Cow Creek is not lined with willows, it is lined with Azaleas! The blooms last all summer and it is a special treat to drive the creek in an open vehicle in the evening to enjoy the succulent aroma of the azaleas. Cow Creek is also gold country and it is quite easy for the amateur prospector to pan flecks of gold from he steam bed. The road going up Cow Creek loops around to come out at Glendale and is a back-roads trip well worth taking.