The Ochoco (och-o-co) National Forest is located in central
Oregon and consists of 847,818 acres. There are 24 developed
campgrounds of which seven meet the selection criteria.
The Ochoco National Forest is an uncrowded "big" little forest
reaching eastward from Prineville, Oregon, passed vast meadows and
into the rolling green heights of the Ochoco Mountains. Over the
eons, the Wild and Scenic Crook River and its North Fork, fed by
more than 100 miles of creeks and streams, have carved grass-covered
valleys that provide an interesting contrast to the surrounding conifer-
covered mountains. Throughout the Forest, roadways stretch down
valley floors and wind up mountain sides, providing easy access to
visitors looking for the Forest's many recreational opportunities.
This little Forest invites visitors to "come and find your special
place" and there are many places to discover.
The exact reason for naming this Forest "ochoco" is debated.
Some say it was the name of a local Paiute chief while others
claim it's the Native people's word for willow trees that grow
along the waterways. Perhaps the name is to remind us of both:
of the people who live on and used this land before us plus the
natural beauty and bounty of the land.
Perhaps the best place to see and experience the Ochoco National
Forest's beauty and bounty is at Sugar Creek campground.
Northeast of the village of Paulina (the General Store is a step
back into time right down to a warped wood porch, sleeping porch
dog, and meeting all your "needs" at one place), Sugar Creek
campground has good Rainbow trout fishing, a delightful swimming hole,
spacious campsite, and almost never crowded. This campground
appears to be ideal for families of all sizes with an assortment
of recreational vehicles and travel trailers or the solitary car
or tent camper looking for a quiet place. Several hiking trails
wind through the surrounding mountains and the forest routes
offer bicyclists challenging and, with little traffic, safe day-
touring through the forest.
Further west and only slightly closer to Prineville is Deep Creek
campground. In the middle of a stand of towering Ponderosa pine
and near the Wild and Scenic North Fork of Crook River, Deep
Creek campground has a rustic, semi-wilderness feel. Unlike
Sugar Creek, Deep Creek campground is probably better suited to
people looking for maximum quiet and solitude.
On the way to Deep Creek campground from Prineville, visitors see
the two reasons people settled in this area - mining and
ranching. The ruins of the Blue Ridge mine are along Forest Rt.
42. What was mined here is unknown to the authors, but remaining
portions of the mine's buildings give an idea of the effort and
expense made to extract whatever it was. Just down the road is a
huge expanse called Big Summit Prairie. Perhaps seven miles
square, this meadow of grass is dotted by free ranging cattle and
an occasional Ponderosa pine. Fans of Western films and books
will immediately recognize it as a scene in many a novel and
However, not all of Forest's developed campgrounds are on rivers,
creeks, and streams. The Ochoco National Forest also has
developed campgrounds on three of its lakes. At 18 acres, Walton
Lake is the smallest, and perhaps the nicest for canoes, but its
campground also has the greatest number of camp sites. Unlike
the other lakeside campgrounds, there are campsites all around
Walton Lake. The walk-in tent sites, snuggled along the
shoreline, are particularly attractive but can be challenging to
While physically in the neighboring Malheur National Forest, the
35-acres of Delintment Lake is administered by Ochoco National
Forest. Delintment Lake is a long way from almost anything and
limits power boats to 5 mph so the Lake is nice for canoeists and
the adjacent campground is usually uncrowded. It is said this
lake and campground, once discovered, are visited time and time
With 170 surface acres, the largest lake in the Ochoco National
Forest, with a developed campground, is Antelope Flat Reservoir.
It is the closest Forest Service Lake to Prineville, down more than
miles of gravel roadway. This is a place popular with those who
don't want to compete with boaters on the enormous Prineville
Reservoir. This single loop campground is in a stand of
Ponderosa pine and sagebrush providing shade for those who are
looking for it.
US Rt 26 stretches across the center of Oregon from Vale, in the
east, to Portland in the west. Just northeast of Prineville is
Ochoco Divide campground, nearly perfect for folks traveling US
Rt. 26. Many large pull-throughs that can accommodate almost
any size RV, make this a good overnight campground. With
most sites well away from highway traffic and grand old Ponderosa
pine and Douglas fir to shade the campsites, visitors can have a
near forest camping experience without a detour off their
intended route. There is even a secluded campsite conveniently
located for touring bicyclists.
Ochoco National Forest has three Wilderness areas - Bridge Creek,
Black Canyon, and Mill Creek. Some might say these wilderness
areas are darn right small but they do offer visitors all the
wonders, challenges, and solitude of larger wilderness areas.
Only Mill Creek Wilderness has a developed campground, called
Wildcat, that is close enough to be used as a base camp. Although the
Twin Pillars Trailhead at the campground provides hikers easy
access to Mill Creek Wilderness, many come here for the quality
Eastern brook, Redband, and Rainbow trout fishing opportunities
or to enjoy wilderness camping without the inconveniences.
Mountain ranges, faulted valleys, and basin formed through time
by volcanic activity have given Ochoco National Forest much of
its personality. Eons of being shaped by wind, rain, and snow
have given the Forest character. The Ochoco's developed
campgrounds give us all an opportunity to discover both and the
Forest's many qualities. One of the unique products of ancient
volcano activity and exposed over time by erosion is the
thunder eggs, designated Oregon's official state rock in 1965.
This rock can be found in the Forest. Like the thunder egg,
Ochoco National Forest awaits your discovery. Remember Ochoco
National Forest's invitation to "find your special place" and
come on down soon.
3160 N.E. 3rd Street
Prineville, Oregon 97754
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
3160 N.E. 3rd. St.
Prineville, Oregon 97754
7803 Beaver Creek Rd.
Paulina, Oregon 97751