U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Willamette National Forest


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Forest Information

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.

Coldwater Cove 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.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 3106 Pierce Parkway Suite D Eugene, Oregon 97477 541-225-6300 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Detroit HC73, Box 320 Mill City, Oregon 97360 503-854-3366 McKenzie River 57600 McKenzie Hwy. McKenzie Bridge, Oregon 97413 541-822-3381 Middle Fork 46375 Hwy. 58 Westfir, Oregon 97492 541-782-2283 Sweet Home 3225 Hwy. 20 Sweet Home, Oregon 97386 541-367-5168

Fred and Suzi Dow