It’s a unique adventure in perhaps the most remote part of Oregon.
Situated amongst one of the most stunning landscapes in Oregon, the Slocum Creek Campground of Leslie Gulch sits at the end of a 15-mile dirt road lined by towering rock cliffs, mysterious honeycombed walls and awe-inspiring rock features formed from colorful volcanic ash carved by the powerful and relentless forces of nature. Nearby, the wide Owyhee River flows slowly, giving life to an abundance of flora and fauna, including over 200 bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, mountain elk, great horned owls, California quail and bats, as well as seasonal wildflowers like the colorful arrowleaf balsamroot, Indian paintbrush and lupine.
During our visit, we toured the Leslie Gulch area, taking a number of hikes to dramatic geologic features and impressive vistas, all the while keeping an eye out for wildlife. When the sun goes down, the stars come out, filling the night sky with stars about 45 minutes after sunset. It is a rare sight to see, with no light pollution in this remote area to obscure your view of the heavens.
Below are some important tips for your camping trip to Leslie Gulch.
Slocum Creek Campground
- There are 10 campsites — those closest to the river receive the first morning light.
- Each site contains a picnic table, a sun shelter and a fire pit.
- No reservations or fees are required — the sites are first come, first served.
- No water or electricity is available. Be sure to bring your own water and a light source. Don’t forget fresh batteries.
- Nice pit toilets are available.
- No Wi-Fi or cell signals are available.
- The campground is open from March through November.
- There is little to no privacy or seclusion at this campsite, though that is part of the experience. It’s a great way to meet fellow travelers.
- Spots are usually available, even during busy holiday weekends, including Labor Day, in which perhaps only half the sites are occupied. However, spots can become few during the spring fishing season.
- Campfires are allowed, but call the local BLM office in Vale (541-473-3144) if you are camping late in the dry season to see if any restrictions are currently in effect. This may save you from hauling wood that you cannot burn. There is no downed wood available in Leslie Gulch.
- Be mindful of ticks, rattlesnakes and goat heads (weeds), especially when off road or off trail.
- Goat heads are abundant within each campsite. Smaller than your fingernail, each of these rock hard seed heads brandish multiple sharp points, which can easily puncture most materials, including your air mattress. Be sure to bring one or more extra tarps as well as extra blankets to place under your tent and air mattress so as to create a layer thick enough that the goat heads cannot reach your mattress. Of course, do your best to clear your tent site of these small irritants before you put down your tent, and if you have some time, spend a moment digging up any of these invasive plants and put them in your fire pit, whether you’re having a fire or not.
- It would be wise to bring an air mattress patching kit, just in case.
- Goat head seeds are not kind to dog paws or bike tires. Be mindful of this when traveling off road. It would also be wise to bring along a bike tube repair kit when mountain biking.
- Fishing is very popular in this area, given the Owyhee River is so close. Note, however, that all species of fish within the river have levels of mercury (due to volcanic deposits).
- Summer months can be exceptionally warm, with the average temperature in August being 90 degrees. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses for your trip.
Proceed north out of Jordan Valley on Hwy 95 for approximately 18 miles to Succor Creek Road. Turn left/west onto Succor Creek Road and drive northwest for 10 miles before reaching Leslie Gulch Road. Turn left/west onto Leslie Gulch Road and follow this down into Leslie Gulch for 14 miles on a well-maintained gravel road to the Slocum Creek Campground.
Alternative Camping Options
Camping at the Slocum Creek Campground takes a bit of a commitment on your part, as it may be full when you arrive. That said, we have camped here during Labor Day weekend, and the campground was only half full. In the unlikely event the Slocum Creek campground is full when you arrive, here are some great options.
Succor Creek State Natural Area
You may find campsites available at Succor Creek State Natural Area, approximately 28 miles northwest of Slocum Creek Campground.
- 18 primitive campsites — 12 tent-only sites are on the east side of the creek, accessible by a footbridge.
- Picnic tables and a pit toilet are available on the west side of the creek.
- No electricity or water is available, though you can treat water from the creek.
Drive back east on Leslie Gulch Road until it intersects in a “T” with Succor Creek Road. Turn left/north and follow this 10 miles to the Succor Creek State Natural Area. Note that Succor Creek Road becomes narrow after leaving Leslie Gulch Road. As a result, trailers and RVs are not recommended. It is possible to continue back out to Highway 95 and follow this north to Homedale, Idaho, taking Highway 201 west out of Homedale for approximately 6.5 miles until it connects with Succor Creek Road heading south, which will lead you to Succor Creek State Natural Area. In other words, you will be approaching Succor Creek Campground from the north, instead of from the south.
Flat Iron Steakhouse Inn
If you prefer not to camp at all, consider returning to Jordan Valley and getting a room at the Flat Iron Steakhouse Inn instead. Make your reservations for two nights, and simply drive to Leslie Gulch to spend the day exploring before returning to the Flat Iron Steakhouse Inn in the evening. If it is late in the day, you’ll want to call them as soon as you have a cell signal.Flat Iron Steakhouse Inn 306 Wroten St
Jordan Valley, Oregon, OR 97910
Read more about Mike & Kristy Westby’s Oregon adventures in their Oregon Road Trips books, featuring the northeast and southeast parts of the state. The books are available for purchase online.