U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Crooked River National Grassland


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Forest Information

The Crooked River National Grassland (NG) is comprised of 111,379 acres and located in central Oregon. Overall administration is provided by the Ochoco National Forest Supervisor's Office. There are 2 developed campgrounds both of which meet the selection criteria.

Most people think "silence" is the absence of all sound. The silence experienced at the Crooked River National Grassland (NG) is full of sounds. There's the scream of a Golden eagle, honking of migrating Canadian geese, the special laughter of a loon, whispers from the wind through junipers, chattering poplar leaves, a lonely yip of a coyote, and so much more. It is the sounds of nature that give the Crooked River NG its wonderfully rich silence. It might be hard today to think this land was once sorely abused and is now in the process of recovering but the return of its many sounds illustrates this NG's recovery.

The areas now designated as "grasslands" were settled in the 1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts" which opened the land to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s caused some homesteads on sub-marginal farmland (a location receiving 15 or less inches of annual moisture) to literally dry up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to stabilize the eroding soil by re-seeding it and applying other conservation techniques. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the USDA Forest Service which was tasked with management of these sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service has established some twenty National Grasslands. "The designation of the area as National Grassland is not a description of the area as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area to a multiple of uses and benefits."

It is thought Crooked River NG was covered with bluebunch wheatgrass and Idaho fescue, along with some sagebrush, rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, and juniper, before its cultivation and during its homesteading period. No longer plowed, slowly these plants are returning and the NG is believed to be looking more as it did in the early 1800s. As the native plants return, evidence of Euro-American homesteader presence is fading.

Some of the evidence of human activity in the NG is being preserved. Places like the Gray Butte Cemetery and McCoin Orchard, and the poplar trees growing in neat rows provide reminders that this land was once noisy with human activity. Drought, erosion, and insects forced many homesteaders off the land but today Haystack Reservoir (a.k.a. Haystack Lake), located on the NG's western border between Madras and Terrebonne, OR., helps farmers around the NG to have successful growing seasons.

Besides being a source of water for irrigation, Haystack Lake attracts birds of all types, sizes, and species as well as campers to the NG and Haystack Lake campground. Views of Haystack Butte and the snow capped southern Cascade Mountains offer campers a panoramic backdrop to hours of fishing and birdwatching opportunities. The campground is well located for day trips to Gray Butte Cemetery, McCoin Orchard, Rimrock Sprincs Wildlife Management Area and numerous hiking and mountain bicycling trails in the area. Perhaps the most conveniently located and challenging of these trails is the 10-mile Warner Loop or the Ridge Rider Endurance Trail system.

Cole Loop, another trail in the Ridge Rider Endurance Trail system, is a total of 25 challenging miles and begins at Skull Hollow Camp campground. Skull Hollow Camp campground, not as developed as Haystack Lake campground, is very rustic, and often regarded as an "overflow" campground for Smith Rock State Park.

Whether your interests are fishing, biking, hiking, boating, exploring, birdwatching, or just enjoying the silence of nature, the Crooked River National Grassland awaits your discovery.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 3160 N.E. 3rd Street Prineville, Oregon 97754 541-416-6500 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESS Crooked River 813 S.W. Hwy. 97 Madras, Oregon 97741 541-475-9272

Fred and Suzi Dow