Cross Cascade Escape
This week’s getaway offers riverside campsites, mountain bike trails and family adventures in a place you’ve likely missed in the Upper Willamette River watershed.
Cross-Cascade links such as Oregon State Highway 58, connecting Oregon’s pastoral Willamette Valley with the vast high desert, can be busy blurs unless you slow your pace and get out of the race from here to there. It connects Oregon’s pastoral Willamette Valley with the vast high desert and we found riverside campsites, mountain bike trails and family adventures waiting for you in the Upper Willamette River watershed.
You’ll discover amazing secrets and a surprising amount of elbowroom for stretching out and playing at the Black Canyon Campground. This is a splendid Forest Service area with eighty campsites for either trailer or tent, and it parallels the Upper Willamette River.
Here, the river has a swift, free-flowing character that is quite different from the broad-beamed, slow-moving waterway most downriver residents know so well. Black Canyon is rarely full–making it a dependable place for a short midweek–or even longer–stop. It’s a fine campground with riverside sites and views to the water. For the youngsters, Black Canyon is a marvelous place to skip some stones, roast marshmallows, make s’mores, and tell spooky stories by a crackling campfire.
From this convenient base camp you can also explore a region that’s somehow been missed or forgotten by many travelers. That’s certainly been the case for mountain bike adventurers Ben Beamer and Randy Dreiling. An area that boasts five hundred miles of Cascade Mountain trails near Oakridge, Oregon. Dreiling owns and operates Oregon Adventures a touring and shuttle company centered in Oakridge.
Near Oakridge, Oregon, explore another site you can’t find “just anywhere.” The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Salmon Hatchery is in the big business of raising fish–specifically salmon, and by the millions each year.
You’re free to roam the five-acre hatchery grounds and gaze into the raceways and other “show” ponds to marvel at ten-pound rainbow trout or six-foot-long sturgeon. The real treasure in this neck of the woods is when you head indoors to learn about salmon and other wildlife at a unique museum on the state hatchery grounds. Though small in size, the hatchery’s museum is large in scope with its varied information displays and exhibits that show off the hatchery’s history and the fish and wildlife of the region.
Huge plate-glass windows separate you from a diorama featuring nearly every small and large forest animal (mounted for the display) that can be found in the Cascade region. The centerpiece is a 2,000-gallon aquarium that contains nearly every fish species you can find in Oregon. Here you can go eyeball to eyeball with rainbow trout, bass, kokanee salmon and many others.
Back out on the Salmon Creek Trail, Dreiling and Beamer agreed that the region has much to offer- whether afoot or rolling along so many miles of trails
In fact, Oakridge is so special a place, the town has taken center stage for two major summertime bike events called simply Mountain Bike Oregon and each event attracts hundreds of riders from across the entire country for the multi-day riding experiences.
“You could spend a month here and not hit every trail – there’s that much here. When you have 62 trails in this area, it’s pretty special.”
Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Thursdays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.