The Willamette (wil-lam-et) National Forest is located in central
western Oregon and is comprised of 1,686,427 acres. There are 75
developed campgrounds of which 46 meet the selection criteria.
The Willamette National Forest, located on the western slopes of
Oregon's western slopes of the Cascade Range, stretches from the
fun-filled Detroit Reservoir, passed the towering Mt. Jefferson
to the pristine Diamond Peak Wilderness. With its widely varied
landscape, easy access via US Rt. 20 and State Rts. 22, 58, and
126 and proximity to Salem, Eugene, and Willamette Valley, the
Willamette National Forest offers visitors excellent and varied
recreational opportunities supported by many developed campgrounds.
The Willamette National Forest is covered with Douglas fir, the
state tree of Oregon, and 15 other conifers including
cedar, hemlock, and fir. The abundance and variety of these
trees reflect the large amount of rain that falls on the
Forest's slopes. This falling moisture supports not only its
lush woodlands but also feeds the headwaters of the McKenzie,
Santiam, and Willamette Rivers, along with over 1,500 miles of
waterways and more than 375 lakes found on the Forest.
Scattered around are lush and spectacular old-growth forests and
over 300 species of fish and wildlife. The Willamette National
Forest also shows the marked effects of glacial scouring and
erosion, dramatic volcanic activity, and more recent devastating
wildfires. In other words, this Forest has a lot to explore and
discover. Fortunately, there is a developed campground
near it all.
The Forest's name, Willamette, is derived from "Willamt," the
Indian name for a place on the river near what we now know as
Oregon City. However, there are no "big" cities in the Forest
and this might be one of the Forest's best features. Small
communities like Detroit, McKenzie Bridge, and Westfir are all
convenient to some of the Forest's sweetest "little" campgrounds.
On the southern banks of Detroit Lake in Detroit, OR are
Southshore, Cove Creek and Hoover campgrounds. The sounds of
powerful boats and happy water skiers can be heard from the
Douglas fir-shaded campsites the Forest Service offers.
Scattered along the banks of the McKenzie River, east and west of
the McKenzie Bridge community, are Delta, McKenzie Bridge,
and Paradise campgrounds. The fast flowing, clear water of the
McKenzie River attracts anglers and whitewater enthusiasts to
these campgrounds. They also feature some really old trees
especially at Delta Creek's Old-Growth Grove. The tiny community
of Westfir is a "gateway" to Robert Aufderheide Memorial Drive and
the delightful Box Canyon and attractive Kiahanie
campgrounds. Kiahanie isn't a large campground but offers the
quiet of old-growth forest beside the North Fork of the Wild and
Scenic Willamette River with its challenging native fish and
outstanding hiking nearby.
About one-fifth of the Forest has been designated wilderness
areas. While these areas contain seven of the Cascades major
peaks, they do not have a developed campground within their
boundaries. (Contact the Willamette National Forest directly for
more information about camping in a wilderness.) However,
Menagerie, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Waldo Lake
Wildernesses do have developed campgrounds nearby. About two
miles from Fernview campground, via Rooster Rock trail, is the
Menagerie Wilderness. Frissell Crossing campground, with a
trailhead about one-mile away, is a nice starting point for
exploring the west side of the Three Sister Wilderness. Big Lake
and Big Lake West campground, about 0.5-mile from Mt. Washington
Wilderness, is unique as it has not only easy access to a
wilderness area, but also offers outstanding water play and some
off-road trail riding opportunities. North Waldo campground is a
portal into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and has quality sailing opportunities
on Waldo Lake.
campground, on the banks of the clear, Clear Lake, is a start/end
point for the McKenzie River trail. The other start/end point
for this trail is near Paradise campground. This trail is open
to hikers and mountain bicyclists. Marilyn Lakes trail, out of
Gold Lake campground, doubles as a cross-country ski trail in the
winter but during the summer this is a good trail system for
exploring the area. Combining history with hiking and mountain
biking trails is the Santiam Wagon Road. Campgrounds, such as
House Rock and Trout Creek, stretch along this historic and
unique roadway and provide insight to the life and challenges of
living in Oregon in bye-gone days. (Contact the Willamette's
Sweet Home Ranger District for more information.)
Crossing the Cascade Mountains has always been a challenge. Many of
today's routes began as trails established by Native American people.
One that began this way is State Rt. 242 (part of the Santiam-Mckenzie
Pass Scenic Byway) across McKenzie Pass. The trail was expanded in
the late 1800s and expanded again by the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) in the 1930s. Rt. 242 has limited access for vehicles to a
maximum length of 35-feet. It climbs with hairpin turns and switchbacks
to the awesome lava fields around McKenzie Pass. Here, from Dee
Wright Observatory, visitors view about 75 square miles of lava flow,
cinder cones, and other examples of Oregon's dramatic volcanic activities
along with mountain carving glaciers. This view stretches from Mt. Hood
to the Three Sisters' mountain peaks.
So much to see, so much to experience, so much to do. It is
little wonder people come back to the Willamette National Forest,
with its many recreational opportunities, varied landscape, and
many developed campgrounds, over and over again. Come and explore
the Willamette National Forest and see why for yourself.
211 East 7th Ave.
Eugene, Oregon 97402
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
HC73, Box 320
Mill City, Oregon 97360
57600 McKenzie Hwy.
McKenzie Bridge, Oregon 97413
46375 Hwy. 58
Westfir, Oregon 97492
3225 Hwy. 20
Sweet Home, Oregon 97386