COTTONWOOD CANYON STATE PARK
Cottonwood Canyon State Park is rugged and vast, from the vertical cliffs carved by the John Day River to deep side canyons and arid, rocky grasslands that extend for miles in all directions. The parks 8,000-plus acres are open for exploring, stargazing and contemplating the elemental forces that carved this unique landscape.
The iconic John Day River is a long, remote, natural river system, with 252 free-flowing miles. The lower John Day River offers one of the best spring and fall wild steelhead runs in Northeast Oregon. Anglers also come for catfish and smallmouth bass. J.S. Burres, across the river, is a popular boat launch for rafts, kayaks, canoes and drift boats.
The park is also open to hunting outside the developed area. It is the responsibility of the hunter to stay current on regulations.
Visitors may see Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, white-tailed jackrabbit, big horn sheep, and all manner of smaller mammals. Both migratory and resident bird populations are a treat, especially for raptor lovers. The rocky landscape also invites reptiles, including at least six species of lizards, western rattlesnakes and various nonvenomous snakes. April and May put on a show of wildflowers.
Located in the eastern part of Oregon, this natural reserve was established as a state park in 2013. It is named after Cottonwood Canyon, which runs through it and covers an area of approximately 8000 acres making it one of the largest parks within Oregon's borders.
The land that now constitutes the park has been inhabited for thousands of years by Native American tribes such as Wasco and Northern Paiute before European settlers arrived. The canyon itself got its name from early pioneers who noticed large cottonwood trees growing along its banks.
In more recent history, prior to becoming a protected site under management by Oregon Parks & Recreation Department (OPRD), much of this region served agricultural purposes with cattle grazing being predominant activity on these lands since late nineteenth century till mid-twentieth century when farming became prevalent due to irrigation projects initiated during Great Depression era.
It wasn't until beginning twenty-first century that OPRD started acquiring parcels here aiming at conservation efforts while providing recreational opportunities like hiking or fishing for public use. In total around $7 million were spent over decade-long period buying up properties from willing sellers including ranchers whose families had owned them generations back thus ensuring their preservation into future too.
The Lone Tree Campground sits near the John Day River and offers a primitive camping experience with potable water and vault toilets nearby ADA showers and flush toilets are within walking distance.
Backcountry camping is allowed on a hike-in basisno dispersed vehicle camping is permitted. This includes the BLM land surrounding the park and Starvation Lane, which are managed by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Those looking to backpack may park at any trailhead, and must hike a minimum 1 mile before setting up camp. Please be sure to contact park staff with any questions relating to your trip.