It’s no surprise that Indian Mary Park, a 61-acre park located in Merlin, about 16 miles northwest of Grants Pass, is the most sought after campground in Josephine County. The park borders the Rogue River and is full of green grass, lush trees and picturesque pavilions that are perfect for picnicking or just soaking up the scenery.
But if you want to experience camping at Indian Mary Park, you better plan in advance. The high season is summertime, although things stay busy well into fall. Campsite reservations are very much recommended.
“Just as the kids are going back to school, fishing season starts up and goes into the fall,” says Colene Martin, President and CEO of the Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce. “Our season really runs from May through November.”
Indian Mary Park is named after Mary Peters, an Umpqua Native American who operated a ferry across the Rogue River in the late 1800’s. Mary’s father Joe was well known for warning miners and settlers near Grants Pass of a looming attack by local tribes at the outset of the Rogue River Wars. Mary’s family remained on the land, avoiding relocation and eventually homesteading under the Dawes Act. The park was incorporated into Josephine County in 1958.
Today, Indian Mary Park is known for stellar salmon and steelhead fishing. Visitors also come from far and wide to enjoy hiking, disc golf, volleyball and a children’s playground all within the park.
With its prime location on the Rogue River, the town of Merlin is famous for sport fishing and whitewater rafting. But all that fun can make a person hungry. In downtown Merlin, about seven miles from Indian Mary Park, you can indulge in home-style cooking at The Riffle Cafe, savory choices at Baldini’s Restaurant and Lounge or scenic riverside dining at the Galice Resort Restaurant.
But, Martin says, “For fine dining, Morrison’s Lodge is the place.”
Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge is just two miles from Indian Mary Park and a hub for tourists who want a step up from camping. It’s a rafting, fishing, hiking and biking resort that offers lodging and a fine dining restaurant.
If you’re on the hunt for even more restaurants, arts and culture or a jet boat trip through Hellgate Canyon, take the 16-mile journey to Grants Pass. Just be warned that you might miss the natural beauty of Indian Mary Park.
“Most people, once they get out here, just want to take in the outdoors as much as possible,” says Martin. “They never want to leave.”