The high, sandstone Payne Cliffs overlook the Fern Valley across Interstate 5 from Phoenix, Ore. Named after a pioneer family, the cliffs are part of the sediment deposited by stream erosion for more than 65 million years. Prehistoric petrified logs and wood are exposed in the south-facing cliffs that reach 2,575 feet above sea level.
American Indians hunted and gathered berries on the higher elevations for about 12,000 years.
Twenty-one-year-old C.T. Payne left Missouri in 1852 on the Oregon Trail with his wife, 16-year-old Elizabeth. They settled for 10 years in the Willamette Valley before moving to Fern Valley and building a home under the rugged cliffs. The Paynes raised chickens and nurtured a “flourishing” garden. Their dairy, one of the first in the valley, provided butter and milk for trading at local stores.
The Payne land holdings extended to Bear Creek. In addition to the cliffs, Payne Road and Payne Creek are named after the family. They raised 11 children and spent their retirement in Ashland. Payne died in 1915 and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1932.
The valley below the cliffs has hosted many orchards and was once considered as a route for Interstate 5.
Sources: "Vanita Daley's 1948 Review of Rogue Valley History." The Historical. Talent Historical Society, Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.talenthistory.org/forms/2011_2.pdf; "Fern Valley History, Jackson County, Oregon: Interesting History of Fern Valley Reveals Developments since 1862." Mail Tribune 6 Jan. 1931 [Medford, Ore.] . Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://wrightarchives.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html; "How were the Payne Cliffs formed." Mail Tribune 22 Apr. 2007 [Medford, Ore.] . Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070422/OURVALLEY/704220308/-1/OURVALLEY02. >.