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Camping along the Oregon Trail!

It has been a busy past two weeks. I left Washington and crossed the Columbia River into Central Oregon. The plan was to spend some time exploring the eastern part of the state before heading west towards Bend.

The Oregon Trail meanders through this area and it got me thinking about how the early settlers travelled.


Not that different, except my trailer has a hard top and my car has 160 horses. Colors are pretty similar as well.

Anyway, my first stop was at Emigrant Springs.


This State Heritage Area is near the summit of the Blue Mountains where travellers would top off their water barrels from the spring. It is just off Interstate 84 between Pendleton and La Grande.

The park's 51 sites include 18 with full hookups.

A11 was a nice dry site while B19 typified the utility spots.

Emigrant-Springs_A011 Emigrant-Springs_B019

There are six regular cabins and one duplex totem cabin.

Emigrant-Springs-Cabin-5 Emigrant-Springs-Totem-Cabin

Add in 7 horse campsites and this place can handle any type of camper. At one of the horse camps I ran across Molly, a two year old pup.


Molly is what the owner called a Goldendoodle, a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. But the breed name makes no sense to me.

I can understand Labradoodle.

LABRADor + pOODLE = Labradoodle.

Which means Molly is actually a Goldoodle, Goldenoodle or Goldenroodle. I prefer the latter. Someone needs to fix this.

Back at camp my pup Fred and I enjoyed a campfire.

Fire Fred-2

I continued east to Switzerland.


Well, not really, but the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the northeast corner of the state is known as "America's Little Switzerland". Oregon has 29 peaks that are 9,000 feet or more and 17 of those can be found here.

This is an extremely popular park far from any large towns or other developed campgrounds. La Grande is 70 miles to the west. So make reservations to avoid being turned away.

There are over 200 sites here, 121 with full hookups.

A8 was a giant full hookup pull-through.


A24 was close to the lake.


A31 has a creek running behind.


D18 is one of the two Yurts. (D19 is the other)


E4 is perfect is you plan to generate a lot of trash.


I stayed in B8.


There is a large boat ramp, marina (with slip and boat rentals), and store (with fishing supplies and a concession).

Wallowa-Lake-Boat-Ramp Wallowa-Lake-Marina Wallowa-Lake-Store

You will also find a sandy beach and picnic area on the shore of this beautiful lake.

Wallowa-Lake-Beach Wallowa-Lake

The local squirrels have built a small amphitheater where they perform for peanuts.


Within walking distance is a tram (summer only) that takes you to the top of Mount Howard and the small town of Joseph is just 7 miles away with art galleries, shops, a little general store and a gas station.

Plan to spend a week here. You will love it.

Heading south I stopped at Farewell Bend State Park.

Oregon Trail travelers had been following the Snake River for over 300 miles when they reached this bend in the river. They took a break, made some tacos, and then bid farewell to the river before moving west across the high desert.


The 122 campsites on the Snake River include 91 with power and water.

I liked sites 73 and 76 in the Brownlee loop.

Farewell-Bend_073 Farewell-Bend-Campsite

In the less shaded Catfish loop site 101 had nice views.


Two cabins are available as well as a human sized amphitheater.

Farewell-Bend-Cabin-1 Farewell-Bend-Amphitheater

That hill in the background is in Idaho.

Pretty views.

Farewell-Bend-View-1 Farewell-Bend-View-2

And Badgers too.


While I didn't spot a Badger, Fred took no chances and hid in a sandwich.


Or maybe he was just hungry.

Turning my trailer west I made a stop at Unity Lake State Park.


The 35 sites all come with power and water.

23 and 27 had a great view.

Unity-Lake_023 Unity-Lake_027

There is also a pair of lakefront cabins.

Unity-Lake-Cabins Unity-Lake

I continued west.


Six miles past the town of John Day is an oasis on the namesake river, Clyde Holliday State Park.


Seriously. Check out my site, number 20.

Clyde-Site-1 Clyde-Site-2 Clyde-Site-3

It reminded me of my Grandparents old place in Kelowna, B.C. Perfectly kept up. The ranger told me that this park has been voted the most well groomed state park in Oregon multiple times.

And all 31 spots were like that. 9, 15, and 17 were even larger than mine.

Clyde-Holliday_009 Clyde-Holliday_015 Clyde-Holliday_017

Forgot your tent? Try a Teepee. They have two.


Trails lead you alongside the river, past the amphitheater, and to a little lake.

John-Day-River-View-1 Clyde-Holliday-Amphitheater Clyde-Holliday-Trail Clyde-Holliday-Lake



The famous fossil beds are less than an hour away.

I kept going west. My GPS informed me that my next turn was on the "Over the Rivers - Through the Woods Scenic Byway".


It was aptly named. I wound up in the town of McKenzie Bridge about halfway between Bend and Eugene.

This tiny town offers a small store, gas, and a café. Within a four mile radius there are 3 campgrounds on the McKenzie River. They all take reservations and all experience heavy use by rafters, kayakers, fishermen, and hikers. And folks that just want to relax and watch these other folks float by on the water.

It was at one of these campgrounds that I found one of the best campsites I have ever visited. But I will save that for last.

McKenzie Bridge campground is the smallest with just 20 sites, number one taken up by a host.


Of the remainder, I preferred 8, 12, and 15.

McKenzie-Bridge_008 McKenzie-Bridge_012 McKenzie-Bridge_015

A picnic area overlooks the river.


Delta campground has 38 sites.


5, 9, and 13 were nice ones.

Delta_005 Delta_009 Delta_013

These campgrounds are in a old growth forest, meaning they have never been logged. Which means lots of moss.


Which Fred enjoyed.


I camped in Paradise. Literally. The largest of the three campgrounds and the only one with flush toilets. Which is why they call it Paradise.


The weather had been sunny for the last few days and continued while I set up camp. I arrived on a Monday, a week before Memorial Day, so I had my pick of sites. I parked, walked around the campground, and chose site 19. You should too. It is the best campsite in Paradise.

Don't believe me? This tour will convince you.

Looking towards the McKenzie River.


Getting closer.


Yes, this site is on a quarter acre of land.

Just in front is a perfect place to pitch a tent.


Keep walking...

Paradise-Site-4 your private beach.




Looking back towards camp.


There are 60 camping spots here including four double sites and many pull-throughs.

Site 17 was a double next to me.


Here is my site from the front.


Other favorites were 21, 48, 49 (another double), and 54.

Paradise_021 Paradise_048 Paradise_049 Paradise_054

All those white tags on the site posts are for reservations for the holiday weekend. Full. In fact, the riverside sites are booked already for every summer weekend and most other days. If you are lucky you can get site 19 midweek.

Or go in the offseason and take the risk of rain. Like me. And yes, the rain started the day after I arrived and hasn't stopped. But that is why everything is so green.

McKenzie-River-View-1 Rain-1

Fred and I made the best of it. We had some pork chops.


And Fred made a new friend.

Bug-1 Bug-2

We hiked around the big old growth trees.

Big-Tree-1 Big-Tree-2

Fred took full advantage of all the trees. No pictures. He is modest.

The rain had let up briefly on my last night camping in Paradise.

I walked to the beach.


Fred tagged along.


It started raining again.


We stayed.


Just a boy and his small dog. And the rain.

Regards and happy camping, Park Ranger


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