The southern part of the diocese is highly mountainous; it’s situated where the coastal range begins to meet, and then join up with, the Cascades. Interstate 5 cuts through this region north to south, and the Rogue River (which is about 215 miles long) cuts it east to west. Even with this rugged terrain, cities can be larger than expected; Medford has around 80,000 people and Grant’s Pass around 32,000. That said, most of the towns and villages in the southern convocation are small, such as Shady Cove with about 3,000 people.
A variety of native tribes, including the Shasta and the Takelma, resided in the Rogue River region of Oregon for many generations. Pioneers began to settle in the area around the early 19th century, first for the sake of the land itself, then for the lure of gold. This migration led to bloody conflict between settlers and native tribes, ending with the forced removal of the native peoples by the U.S. government to reservations far to the north of the region.
Like most Oregonians, those of us who live in the south love the outdoors. Most activities center around the Rogue River (for rafting and camping) or hiking through the varied terrain. Trails, lakes, and the river are not far from major highways, making it easy to get from city to country and back. Crater Lake National Park, a great draw for Oregonians and both national and foreign visitors, is just two hours from Medford.
Cities and towns in southern Oregon embrace this connection to the outdoors but also have a vibrant arts and musical life. Jacksonville, just outside of Medford, hosts the Britt Festival, a yearly outdoor and indoor music festival. Ashland, further south on the interstate, is the home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs from March to October and offers close to 1,000 shows, consisting of 11 different plays in three different theaters. Southern Oregon University is also in Ashland.