Skip to main content

See also:

Cottonwood Canyon is well worth the trip

The checkers table and rocking chairs at Cottonwood Canyon.
The checkers table and rocking chairs at Cottonwood Canyon.
Kathleen Sweeney

No doubt you've seen the advertisements on TV for Oregon's newest State Park, Cottonwood Canyon. Located past The Dalles, you might wonder if it's worth the drive. If you enjoy warm, dry weather and new scenery, then it definitely is! It's built on an old ranch and offers a lot: at least 3 hiking trails, the John Day River, checkers next to rocking chairs (it doesn't get any better than that!) and an information station and outdoor kitchen area with plug-ins.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park
Kathleen Sweeney

There are 21 primitive campsites for tent campers or self contained trailers. The price is right: $10.00 in the hot summer season and only $7.00 in the off season. There are also some hiker/biker camps and a horse trail.

In early May, there were snakes, rabbits, fish and lots of songbirds. The brochure says if you don't approach the rattlesnakes they will generally leave you alone. There was one in the grass right near the Information Station and other visitors kindly pointed it out. Later in the day, other snakes appeared without rattles. One wrapped up in the car wheel for a minute or so and then headed for the restrooms. Wear good shoes for hiking and bring a flashlight!

The sprinklers were going later in the afternoon so much of the grass there is green. (On the other side of the fence..!) If you walk in the corral area, you can read about some of the history of the indigenous people and the early European settlers in this area.

The campground area is very dry and fireworks are not permitted, nor are campfires from at least July 1 through September 30th. Smoking is allowed if you are standing in the water or sitting in your own closed vehicle or boat in the water.

The campground is first come, first served. The website suggests that you use their map because the park is so new that it might not be on all the map features in the computer. There is also a brochure available with more information.

Directions: Go East on I-84 through the Columbia Gorge. Take Exit 104 to US 97 S, follow this and 206 E. Turn right on Clark. Take 2nd left onto 206 East, proceed 14.8 miles and turn right. The address is 99989 Hwy 206.