U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Ochoco National Forest


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Forest Information

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 movie.

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 reach.

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 again.

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.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 3160 NE 3rd Street Prineville, Oregon 97754 541-416-6500 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Lookout Mountain 3160 NE 3rd. St. Prineville, Oregon 97754 541-416-6500 Paulina 3160 NE 3rd Street Prineville, Oregon 97754 541-416-6500

Fred and Suzi Dow