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The residents of Oregon now own about 8,000 acres by buying land from the Western Rivers Conservancy between 2010 and 2013 and existing ownership with JS Burres State Park.

Here’s the general location map on Google, and the property boundary as of today (click on map for a larger image):

Cottonwood Map Poster-lower-res_Page_1

The park is going to be a major gateway to the John Day River recreation experience as a whole, and here’s a map showing the entire drainage (or download the high-resolution PDF):

John Day Region

49 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Collier permalink
    April 15, 2010 5:07 pm

    Well done !!!!! It is nice to see some new State Parks being built. Our State Parks put all other States Parks to shame. Once it is built, they will come, and what a good oportunity to show off our beautiful state and educate everyone on the importance of good land stewardship.
    I look foreward to visiting the site and to see it develope over the years for the generations to follow. Have fun with the looooonnnng process, but enjoy seeing it take shape and grow.


  2. Becky Babcock permalink
    May 10, 2010 2:18 pm

    I am interested in finding out if this new state park will allow horses to ride and or camp in the park?

    thank you

    • May 10, 2010 2:57 pm

      This is the sort of question we ask people during the planning process. We do have equestrian people on the formal advisory committee, but we also need to hear from you: do you want horseback riding and camping? If so, is there a particular kind of experience you’d like — length, style, whatever? Once we know what kind of experience you want, we balance that against what everyone else says and the suitability of the property, then come up with a draft plan.

      • Margie Loomis permalink
        August 3, 2010 3:40 pm

        I would like to see equestrian camping and riding made available at Cottonwood Canyon State Park. This is an area that does not have many horse trails and ammenities like other areas of the State. I enjoy easy riding trails, with scenic views and/or accessibility to wildlife. I like horse camping in parks with or without electric/water and prefer horse corrals, but do camp with portable corrals if needed.
        If the park is created as a multi use park, where 4 wheelers or ATV’s are allowed, I would like to see some trails designated specifically for horses so one can go riding and enjoy nature without the loud distraction of motorized contraptions and the intense distruction that they leave behind. Thank you.

      • vern palmer permalink
        September 29, 2013 11:32 pm

        Please do not plan for trails to be used for hiking and horses. Horses are fine on their trails the same as ATVs on theirs. None of the three are compatible trail wise. Horses turn firm trails to powder and make it a difficult slog for us hikers. A stand alone equestrian park and separate horse trails would be optimum for everyone. Thank you Oregon Parks for a terrific job statewide.

      • September 30, 2013 4:04 pm

        The Gilliam-side trail system caters to horses, and the Sherman side to bicyclists and hikers. That said, the Gilliam-side trails are re-used jeep roads and are very wide, and the trail surface is very firm. As long as everyone exercises good courtesy (for instance, bikers — call out before overtaking), there should be room for everyone.

        The trails on the Sherman-side are hiker-biker only.

  3. Julie Babcock permalink
    June 8, 2010 5:51 pm

    Yes, we would LOVE a horse camp at this new park. It is such a beautiful area. I belong to Oregon Equestrian Trails and we would be happy to help work on horse trails for the new camp–help build a horse camp, etc.

    How exciting to have a new park in such a beautiful area!

  4. Joy O Senger permalink
    September 14, 2010 5:28 pm

    Please do include horse trails and camping facilities – corrals, manure pits, stock water and level campsites. Multiple loop trails of varying degrees of difficulty to accomodate riders and horses of all skill levels. Please include members of the equestrian community (Back Country Horsemen of Oregon and Oregon Equestrian Trials) in the actual planning. This looks like a great project!

  5. melody fifield permalink
    October 27, 2010 8:17 pm

    Thank you to the Murtha family and others for working on this wonderful park addition to the current Oregon holdings. How great to save something beautiful before it is built on and changed. We are a hiking/equestrian family and know we would enjoy camping there while practicing Leave No Trace. Thanks and keep us informed. Good luck!

    • Barbara Marin permalink
      September 28, 2013 5:08 am

      Hi Melody – I just read your post…I’ll pass the word onto my father – Pat Murtha and the other Murtha family..enjoy the beautiful park! It officially opened September 25th!

  6. Ruth Banks permalink
    October 30, 2010 4:58 pm

    Looking forward to our Good Sam RV Group being able to volunteer our help in getting this new state park going. We are most defionately interested in bringing our many years of experience (called work) and will be able to bring our RVs to the area needing help and stay there in our rigs doing whatever you need. Keep us posted as to the where and when you can use our help.

  7. Linda Nolte permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:03 pm

    Please have horse camping sites that are level with pull-through parking for two rigs per site and four corrals per site. Good drainage on corrals. Metal if possible. Fire pits. Potable water in the camp with a spout that can attach to a garden hose for filling water jugs. Manure bins for horse manure. Vault toilets. If I were really dreaming, would love to see potable water at each site and a bathhouse..but I know that’s dreaming. Thanks for listening.

  8. Mary Macnab permalink
    November 23, 2010 6:47 pm

    I know some people find it difficult at the Deschutes State Park because they have to sign up ahead of time to ride horses, and only certain months of the year are allowed. I hope this park will not be that restrictive.

  9. Linda Nolte permalink
    November 23, 2010 7:37 pm

    In reading Mary’s comment, am I interpreting correctly that there is a usage restriction on horses compared to hikers, climbers, bicyclers, etc.? If so, I don’t agree with limiting one user over another. (With the exception that I do not believe motorized vehicles belong in the wilderness. It’s not logical to seek a “natural” wilderness experience and then negate it with a noisy, smelly, motorized vehicle.

    • November 23, 2010 7:46 pm

      There are no rules written for the park yet. Management choices like these typically aren’t part of park planning at this stage … unless a management choice affects park design, facilities or other big-picture topics. That said, we’ve heard from several people that signing up to ride in advance is a hassle. That sort of input is helpful — even though it’s pretty early to be setting management rules in stone — because an early discussion allows us to understand how people want to use the park, and gives the on-the-ground managers a head start on making the park work well. How do you feel about a sign-in at the park, so we know who is out riding or walking at any given time?

      As to your other point, there will be no public motorized recreation inside the park.

      • Linda Nolte permalink
        November 23, 2010 7:53 pm

        Thank you for your reply. I can tell that you are being very thoughtful and intentional about Cottonwood Canyon. That is great! Thank you! Most of the places in Oregon (and formerly in Colorado) where I hike, bicycle, ride my horse, etc. do have a sign in/out kiosk. I think it’s wonderful and essential because of the following: if someone doesn’t return, we can narrow the search area; it lets management know the type and number of users for planning purposes; it helps hold users accountable for being good stewards of the area as you have stated your presence in the park; volunteers are noted also and that helps give credit to those hard workers.

        Thank you for “hearing” the comments about no public motorized recreation in the park.

        I am very eager to see the park open. We would happily drive from Central OR (Bend,Redmond, etc.) to enjoy the facility.

  10. Linda Nolte permalink
    November 23, 2010 7:57 pm

    additional clarification. it’s good to have the option to reserve some horse camping sites ahead of time and also keep a number of some walk-in sites also. It’s also great to decide that same day where to ride…and not be required to give advance notice or be turned away. It’s time consuming and gas is costly to horse camp…so when a few want to camp together we need to know that when we get there we’ll have a place for our critters and our rigs. Pull through is GREAT..especially if two rigs fit on one site — we can always double up two horses (two corrals) on one site, etc.

    • November 23, 2010 8:02 pm

      Got it. We do distinguish between reservable camping (where you have to call in advance) and the kind of on-site trail registration we’ve been tossing around here. Thanks for pointing that out.

  11. Mike D permalink
    December 14, 2010 6:41 am

    I have fished this section of river many times year-round.I’ve got some strong feelings about the area. Because it takes more work to access than most places, it’s not over-run with people. The feeling of freedom and quiet solitude that can be found on this section of the John Day are a rare joy to experiance. Wildlife is abundant and the clean water is full of healthy fish. Even wild bighorn sheep roam this remote canyon. I do not think developing the area with roads and drive-in campgrounds with restrooms and horse facilities will add to the wild character of the river, or improve habitat. I think it should be left as-is, with a trail head sign for public access. There’s already a big parking lot with a good restroom at the boat launch area. Thanks for listening.

    • Linda Nolte permalink
      December 14, 2010 4:42 pm

      To Mike D’s point, I think that any campgrounds should be far enough away from the river and other delicate resources so that it does take “work” a sustained hike or a trail ride to get close to those areas. That would help preserve the wild character of certain areas without discriminating against respongible horse users. To that point, NO TRAILS SHOULD be open to motorized OHVs or other motorized uses.

      • Jon P permalink
        February 25, 2011 2:37 am

        Hi Linda,

        I have been visiting Cottonwood canyon for over 25 years now and I am intimately familiar with virtually every acre of it. Although the proposed park, if all parcels are purchased, will be 8,000+ acres, I can assure you that the vast majority of recreation, including horseback riding, will take place on the relatively narrow canyon bottom along the river. This being the case, any proposed campgrounds, structures, trails and/or other amenities will be, by virtue of geography, fairly close to the river.

        I don’t want to speak for Mike, but I believe his point is that, in order to maintain the wild character of the park, all development and amenities (campgrounds, parking lots, corals, bathrooms, etc.) should be limited to where they exist today – at the access points at Cottonwood Bridge and the Murtha ranch site. That way, everyone using the park enters from the same place and enjoys the same opportunity to go on multi-mile hikes, horse rides, or bike rides. Putting it another way, the Murtha ranch was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy primarily for its ecological value to fish and wildlife, so in my view, any development should only occur where it exist today and that’s at the Cottonwood Bridge and Murtha ranch access areas.

    • Jon P permalink
      February 24, 2011 11:34 pm


      I’m with Mike D. and Tony P. I’ve been bird hunting ‘Cottonwood Canyon’ for over 25 years and I agree that significant development is not appropriate for this park. The Murtha ranch was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy for its ecological values and the proposed plans for the park appear to run counter to the Conservancy’s goals. This area is home to elk, bighorn sheep, steelhead, golden eagles, prairie falcons, and numerous songbirds and small mammals. Some of the park area is under consideration for wilderness status by the BLM, and because of this rare combination of natural amenities, I think the park should be managed as a ‘natural area.’

      I accept that some low impact development at the Murtha Ranch site is inevitable, but any development in the interior of the park is unnecessary and will only serve to frustrate restoration efforts and displace longtime users like hunters and fisherman – many of whom are locals.

      Equestrians are currently enjoying the park now and I believe they should continue to do so in the future but some of the proposed equestrian and lodging facilities are over-the-top for this place. Any trails built in the draws to access the uplands will be wiped out by the every decade-or-so rain events that strike central Oregon. The Hay Creek access should remain walk-in as it is now.

      Furthermore, you guys know the country; ceaseless wind in the spring, brutally hot summers, and freezing fog in fall and winter. The John Day River is essentially green and stagnant in the summer months and typically doesn’t begin to flow again until November rains arrive (it’s not like the Deschutes). The nearest town with any real amenities and emergency services is The Dalles which is a 45-50 mile drive, much of it along lonely, winding highway 206. I beleive you guys would agree that this place is probably not going to be attractive to the casual recreationist.

  12. Tony Pranger permalink
    December 20, 2010 6:40 pm

    I am in agreement with Mike D. I do not believe further development with campgrounds, etc. will enhance the experience of this area. The existing parking area and restroom at Cottonwood bridge seems more than adequate for current uses. Further development of the area will certainly attract more people and more use, which I believe will diminish the quality of the experience one can currently have here. I enjoy hunting this area because it is somewhat primitive and difficult to access, and offers some solitude. The more it is developed, the less likely it will be that folks can enjoy a day of hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. without lots of company.

  13. Linda Nolte permalink
    December 27, 2010 8:59 pm

    Tony, please clarify. Are you saying that by not developing it, the current hikers, fishers, hunters will mostly have the area to themselves? Is this a correct interpretation of your post?

    • Jon P permalink
      February 25, 2011 10:21 pm


      Again, I don’t want to speak for anyone, but I think Tony’s point is that extensive development will diminish the opportunity to enjoy the relative quite and solitude that users today are experiencing – including equestrians. I don’t believe anyone wants to discriminate against any particular non-motorized user group – it’s a question of what is an appropriate level of development for this area. This park is unique in that it was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy for its outstanding ecological values so decisions about development need to be weighed very carefully against conservation goals.

  14. Linda Nolte permalink
    February 27, 2011 2:22 am

    Thank you both for your patient explanations. I have only lived in Oregon since 2005 and am still learning about our wonderful resources. Thing is, when folks haul a horse for several hours or more to ride, the gasoline costs, camping set-up, etc. are more than a one-day experience would justify. That’s why having a camp ground is part of what makes an area accessible to horse trail riders. I have been hearing of the wild beauty of the CC area and would relish the opportunity to enjoy it on horseback so having a place to horse camp is vital if coming from Bend/Redmond or other distant areas of Oregon. Camping in an area where a variety of day rides are available from a “hub” campsite would be great. Putting that campsite in an area that is less fragile seems right.

  15. Sim Jim permalink
    March 5, 2011 5:12 am


    This park will take extensive work to recover from ranching over the
    last century and a half. I’ve not been to the site but if it’s like
    everywhere else in the American West then there are degraded soils and
    invasive species dominant in most of the lowland areas. This ‘wild
    and untouched’ feel is only due to the ignorance of our recent
    experience. That is, this place has been degraded since before living
    memory so the “I’ve been here 25 years” argument is a red herring.

    200 years ago this canyon area was no doubt truly awesome in its
    wildlife and scenic experiences. These days you can see such
    ‘natural’ critters as Chucker (imported from Central Europe),
    Pheasant (imported from Caucasus), and ‘natural’ flora like Russian
    Knapweed (imported from the Eurasian Steppes), Morning Glory (imported
    from China), Puncture Vine (imported from Mediterranean), Hoary Cress
    (imported from Western Asia), etc.

    This park area could be developed for 250 campsites and the
    improvements to the natural landscape that go along with that
    development will make the area a *more* natural experience than it is
    now – by far it will improve the quality of the natural landscape.

    Further, if this land isn’t made open to public use then it will be
    private and fences will go up and “No Hunting” and “No Fishing”
    will ensure it is used by almost no one. Ranching just isn’t
    economical in areas like this anymore. Try having an outdoor experience
    where all the land is privately owned – mountainsides and swamplands
    (which do have their own beauty) will be all that’s available to us.
    Like in Western Europe where everywhere else is farmland, private
    country estates, managed forests and cities – lowlands that flood and
    steep mountains are the only really public open spaces. Who needs that

    • Jon P permalink
      March 8, 2011 1:02 am

      Hello Sim Jim
      You are clearly knowledgeable on the subjects of desert ecology, native species, and historical land use in the West. I’m very happy that you’ve joined this conversation, and you are quite correct that Cottonwood Canyon Park has been heavily impacted by the affects of grazing and ranching for over a century and restoration will be a huge challenge.
      Concerning your characterization of previous comments, I’m not sure who you are attributing the ‘wild and untouched’ claim to ( I never described it that way), but I’m in agreement with you that the place is anything but ‘wild and untouched.’ I am assuming you are attributing your “I’ve been here 25 years” quote to me, but if you re-read my comments, I said “I’ve been bird hunting ‘Cottonwood Canyon’ for over 25 years” and “I have been visiting Cottonwood canyon for over 25 years.” I make this point only to demonstrate to readers that my comments are based on first-hand observations, and so far as what I understand ‘red herring’ to mean, it’s unclear to me how this expression applies to my statements – probably not important – just a clarification.
      Also, I am fully aware of the invasive plant infestations (thus the need for restoration) and that the upland birds present in the area are introduced (native sharp-tailed grouse were extirpated in the area in the early 1900’s; sage grouse probably in the ‘50’s). This is not a pristine area by a long shot.
      When you do visit Cottonwood Canyon, you may come to the conclusion that 250 campsites may be a bit much for what the area has to offer and likely would conflict with the conservation opportunities that motivated the acquisition in the first place. From the Western Rivers Conservancy Web site:
      Conservation of the ranch presents a great opportunity to enhance low-impact recreation. Public access that is compatible with the conservation goals will offer a premier outdoor experience for anglers, boaters, hikers and hunters.
      It should be noted that numerous non-governmental organizations, which support low impact recreation, have been and will continue to contribute restorations funds.
      The Deschutes River State Recreation Area., which offers a much more diverse recreational experience, a longer recreational season, a larger recreational area, and much better access from Portland and the Willamette Valley (than Cottonwood Canyon), offers 59 campsites – all at the entrance near the highway Except for a few outhouses, the interior of the park is undeveloped. Equestrians are limited to the spring months and are required to register with the park
      I completely agree with you that public land ownership is essential if the public is to have anywhere to enjoy the outdoors. I was elated to learn that the Murtha Ranch was (is currently in the process of being) purchased by the State of Oregon. My motivation for participating in the planning process is to help make this a great public resource that balances ecological restoration objectives and recreational opportunities. My belief is Cottonwood Canyon will not be a heavily visited park, and as such, development, for ecological and financial reasons, should not be overly ambitions.
      I’ll be attending the planning meeting in Portland in April – maybe I’ll see you there.

  16. Linda Nolte permalink
    March 8, 2011 1:24 am

    I have a copy of an impact study from the Forest Service (I hope I am attributing this correctly) in which the impact of various trail traffic on tread has been researched and quantified. Of course I just tried to locate it so I can quote directly and it’s been lost in a big pile of paper. The AHA for me was the ranking of the level of trail tread impact by user type. Seems that bicycles are next in line after horses. That the top level of tread impact is from motorized vehicles of all types. Just sayin’…. let’s don’t finger point here on equines or any other users. If we are all good stewards, then we will work this out. Horse folks are having a tough time these days with all the cost increases and the sour economy in Oregon. We need places to camp and ride that are affordable. Most of us consider ourselves exemplary stewards of the land. We carry weed seed free hay, etc. So far no one has asked those with dogs to clean their feet upon entering wilderness areas, or clean their bicycle treads, or such things. But horse owners are being targeted. OK…let’s be fair here.

    • Jon P permalink
      March 8, 2011 6:24 am

      Hi Linda,
      I don’t believe any of the posts are advocating for the exclusion of equestrians. On the contrary, most of the comments are from equestrians who strongly favor equestrian facility development. Based on the posts I’m reading on the Web site, it seems difficult to make the case that horse owners are being ‘targeted.’
      I favor (and it appears a few others agree with me) park management and development that is compatible with the goals of the Western Rivers Conservancy, the organization that made this all possible. Again, from their Web site …….
      “Conservation of the ranch presents a great opportunity to enhance low-impact recreation. Public access that is compatible with the conservation goals will offer a premier outdoor experience for anglers, boaters, hikers and hunters”………(Although equestrians are not mentioned specifically here, I don’t believe they should be excluded).
      If you haven’t been there already, you should consider a trip over there and check it out. Take a hike in from the Murtha Ranch site downriver and see what you think. And concerning trail impacts, grazing, either by cows or sheep, has been practiced here for probably 150 years, so trail impacts by horse, bike, or hikers is probably not an issue.

  17. Linda Nolte permalink
    March 8, 2011 2:48 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I should have been more clear in my statement of perceptions that equestrians are being “targeted” — This is a bigger picture issue. I was not necessarily referring to this thread or this project. More of a generalized statement regarding recent developments and issues that affect equestrians in a disparate way. Feed requirements, proposed licensing legislation, conversion of equine user trails into exclusive non-equestrian use, etc. This is a trend in many “public” areas. In a number of situations, horse owners are being out maneuvered by well-funded, well-organized non-equestrian users. This is a general statement describing a trend. In general we horse folks are not political and tend to peacefully go our own way. But in the face of demands and funding of other user groups (will not name names) we are being driven off areas that were formerly equestrian-friendly. This is due in part to safety concerns by horse owners. Proxity to motorized vehicles, gun ranges, hunting areas, fast-moving silent bicycles, etc. can be scary to a horse that might spook and run, or otherwise react in an unsafe way. We try to desensitize our horses to these things, but they are living beings and can react in unexpected ways on any given day. Thanks again for listening.

  18. March 8, 2011 2:54 pm

    Nice discussion, folks. Balancing recreation and conservation — and figuring out the best trade-offs within each one of those goals — well, that’s what park planning is about. The Western Rivers Conservancy is part of our park planning advisory committee, as are a hunting representative, equestrian enthusiast, geologist, wildlife biologist and many others.

    It’s important to remember this is a very large park — 8,000 acres, with another 8,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are large parts of this landscape where conservation is the top priority. Restoring these areas (especially weedy bottomlands and riparian areas) will take decades, and the park plan draft you’ll see in April will clearly show recreation plays second fiddle in large parts of the park.

    Other, smaller areas will be developed for recreation either because a) they have already been heavily modified by people and aren’t crucial natural resource areas (the immediate grounds of the Murtha Ranch itself, for instance), or b) recreation and natural resource improvements can co-exist. Recreation is made possible because of the land’s actual or potential natural strengths; we can’t provide recreation without being good stewards of the land. Period.

    There will be recreation here (and yes, that includes equestrians — the trick is “right place, right size”). There will be restoration. We have solid relationships with people who have both sets of interests. That said, there will be people who — after all is said and done and the plan is adopted — will want to tip the balance one way or the other. Spend any time talking with a large group of people, and you will understand 100% agreement on values and balance is something of a pipe dream. But we think the way we plan, and the broad spectrum of people we include, and our own mission statement, create the best possible foundation for a new park.

    Coming soon: the draft plan, in time for our April meetings.


    • Jon P permalink
      March 10, 2011 11:59 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Will you be posting the next draft plan on this Web site before the April Meetings?

      • March 11, 2011 12:59 am

        Indeed I will. Not sure exactly when — it’s still in the oven, so to speak — but it will go online here before it’s out to the libraries and other websites.

  19. Sim Jim permalink
    March 17, 2011 3:04 am


    Tony previously:
    “Further development of the area will certainly attract more people and more use, which I believe will diminish the quality of the experience one can currently have here. I enjoy hunting this area because it is somewhat primitive and difficult to access, and offers some solitude. The more it is developed, the less likely it will be that folks can enjoy a day of hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. without lots of company”.

    From Jon previously:
    “…it’s a question of what is an appropriate level of development for this area…

    The Murtha ranch was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy for its ecological values and the proposed plans for the park appear to run counter to the Conservancy’s goals…

    …so in my view, any development should only occur where it exist today and that’s at the Cottonwood Bridge and Murtha ranch access areas…

    My motivation for participating in the planning process is to help make this a great public resource that balances ecological restoration objectives and recreational opportunities…

    Cottonwood Canyon Park has been heavily impacted by the affects of grazing and ranching for over a century and restoration will be a huge challenge”.

    From the Western Rivers Conservancy website:
    “Our vision is to see the 16,114 acres of deeded and leased lands restored to high-quality native habitat along sixteen spectacular miles of the river, which will be accessible for the public to enjoy”.

    From me, presently:
    I think everyone should realize that restoration is a long term goal. It won’t be complete in the lifetime of anyone now living. In theory it could but unless Joe Billionaire hands out the $$ it will be done piecemeal and will of necessity involve a large and diverse group of people over the next century +.

    Regarding the Red Herring statement:
    Meaning no offense – I just meant that how long anyone has been coming to the site is an irrelevant comment in regards to ‘not wanting to see extensive development’; because there is no one alive who remembers what this place once looked like before it was adversely impacted. It’s been overgrazed for 100 years or more, there’ve been roads, rail roads, other agriculture and many invasive species introduced as well. Except the steep and windswept uplands/cliff faces, and the occasional nook or cranny here and there, the whole place is in need of restoration.

    I also maintain that without significant development there won’t be any $$ for restoration (and here let me throw out some more specifics since the word ‘development’ and it’s forms and synonyms are getting much use – things such as group camp sites, equestrian camp sites, boater camp sites, tent sites, regular hard-surface with a plug-in campsites, picnic sites, informative trailheads, decent boat put-in/take-out, maybe an interpretive center of some sort and decent parking (including ADA access) to go along with all these and more).

    That is to say, funding this park to be just a wide spot in the road with a trailhead + outhouse simply won’t have enough support from the general citizenry and without that support this land won’t stay private nor will it ever get restored.

    On the other hand I think worrying about ‘interior development’ of the 16,000 +- acre park is silly. To develop anywhere off of the main highway (the only paved road from what I can see on Google Earth) would’ve been prohibitively expensive 10 years ago when $$ was flush. These days it just flat out ain’t gonna happen, so no use worrying about it.

    Seriously, because we haven’t even begun discussion of how much $$ it will take to preserve the “cultural heritage” of the site there is no need to worry about off road or interior development. Any state or federal $$ used (and it all looks like state or fed $$ to me at this juncture) will bog down in the cultural heritage side of things so you can be assured the planners won’t even go for that focus in developing the park. Then there’s the $$ sucked up by the fallout from environmental impact assessments when breaking undisturbed ground and you’re on the verge of being able to bet your life that no interior development will occur, ever. Designating ‘official’ trails on existing roads/jeep tracks and that’s it.

    One last thing to consider on the potential for overuse of this park:

    If this place was really a great destination it’d already be developed and whatever has kept out development will certainly keep down the numbers of park visitors – extreme weather/unfriendly environment most likely with a little off-the-beaten-track thrown in… maybe some other factors. That tells me there should be a strong emphasis on multiple uses from the day the park is opened otherwise the whole endeavor will flop.

    One last thing in this regard:

    I am an occasional mountain biker and I can attest to the fact that equestrians have ten to twenty times the recreational opportunities that mountain bikers have for exclusive trail use and camping facilities. Routes organized for mountain bikers tend to be share-the-road affairs and similarly, share-the-trail or share-the-campground. In fact I’ve even been kicked out of a campground (by a ranger in the Columbia River Gorge) after I paid because the only site left open was an “RV Site” with hookup – and hey! I paid the RV price and had nothing to plug in and it was a no reservation site to boot, to which I was the first to arrive. Some nice people in the RV site next to mine allowed me to park my bike and set up camp at their site after the ranger left so it worked out ok, though I got no refund.

    So the point of this digression is that there should be development for bicyclists to camp, to lock up securely their bikes so they can picnic, go fishing or even hike. I’m not against the equestrians, I’m only making clear the point that bicyclists are often left out and equestrians already have a lock on getting what they want at this park.

    By the way, equestrians will be the single largest per capita vector of invasive weeds into the park wherever horses are allowed and in the areas down wind from where horses are allowed. I know they have to use weed-free feed but that rule will occasionally be violated (intentionally or otherwise) and it matters a great deal what went in the horses front end even 3-days before they get to the park – if they ate weeds/weed seeds Wednesday then those will appear in a pile of ‘compost’ Saturday wherever the horse may roam and there’s no reasonable way to control that.

    So… thanks for discussing this and maybe I’ll see you at the park someday. No chance of making any of the planning meetings since I’m not yet retired enough to spare the time.

  20. January 19, 2012 6:05 am

    Hi there,

    This may be a little too late, but I would like to see some mountain biking specific trails put in around the new state park. Something similar to the work being done at Stub Stewart State Park, but with longer trail loops.

    I am not that familiar with the area, but I dont believe that there are very many mountain bike trails in the general area, except for around Bend. You may have already contacted them, but COTA (Central Oregon Trail Alliance) would be a good resource.



  21. Terry Henderson permalink
    July 2, 2013 6:39 pm

    I’m also interested in seeing singletrack mountain biking options in the park.

  22. S.S. Kennedy permalink
    September 6, 2013 5:13 pm

    So, now all the athletes have had their say, I would like them all to know what it means for a pedestrian with small children in tow to visit ANY park in the system at the present time….it means danger, watch out for speeding bikes yelling “excuse me” as they approach from behind and walking thru horse droppings as well. This isn’t family hiking, it’s more like the pioneers slogging along after the wagon train ahead and the one bearing down from the rear. Walkers pay taxes too!

    • September 6, 2013 6:40 pm

      Thanks for the comment, and I do understand your concern. The multi-use trail (including horses) is on the Gilliam county side of the river. The walking and bicycling-only trails are on the Sherman County side. We do ask equestrians to help control waste by taking care of it before they ride, or to move it off the trail. Bike etiquette is important, and most people are respectful, but for those few who aren’t, the ranger has a little chat to straighten things out.

  23. Dee permalink
    June 17, 2014 12:31 am

    Yes, on horse trails. We also pay taxes. This would be a wonderful place to ride.

  24. Star Rider permalink
    July 3, 2014 8:56 pm

    Having been in the shoes of the mom with little ones, the horseback rider with a hiker coming up from behind, and a hiker out for photographs, a former resident of Spray right on the John Day River and currently an RV’er looking for a spot to park and enjoy some scenery….I for one am happy that everyone commenting on here are speaking up. When horseback riding a hiker came up behind me with a dog on the loose, being quiet so as not to spook us, she did the opposite. We almost went over a 100 ft. cliff to the river below. Thank goodness for the training and more sure footed horse. I think with 8000 acres to work with there would be trails a plenty for hikers, riders and quiet sitters too. Now that I am older and have moved onto RV camping, I find it difficult to find a spot that does not have generations of families enjoying a reunion, or a place to just stop and sleep without paying. It’s kind of the point of being fully self contained. NO water or elec. needed. If only we didn’t have to have tires to tear up the grounds. Thanks for working together everyone and voicing your opinions. I am headed to Cottonwood Canyon this weekend. I’ll let you know how my experience fares this time. Happy 4th of July!

    • July 30, 2014 8:20 pm

      Thanks for the comment regarding hikers approaching horse back riders–this is a very important safety message. We are working with the BLM on the trail system and will hopefully be able to increase the miles of horse trails in the coming years.

  25. July 31, 2014 4:04 am

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog
    before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  26. lacy permalink
    August 29, 2014 11:47 pm

    We are heading out, set towards Cottonwood Canyon, a little worried about a site being available. Is there going to be a way in the future to make reservations or to know availablity before leaving? Also is there plans to make more sites? We love that area and would love to see more sites available. The one time we visited they were all full. Also does anyone know if we can stay in the hiker/biker sites? We are going to hike once we get there but we are driving there. Also is there any information on where to stay if Cottonwood Cayon is full? Any other recommeded spots close by that tenters could stay, is that information readily available for people once they get there? It would be a good back up plan since Cottonwood is in the middle of nowhere.

    • September 1, 2014 10:11 pm

      Right now we have only been full a handful of times–until this is a more consistent occurrence we won’t become part of the reservation system or expand the camping area. Must weekends we are 3/4 full and less then 1/2 during the week.

      We allow drive-in campers to occupy the hiker-biker if all other sites are full. We always keep three hiker/biker sites open for folks coming in by foot or bike.

      The hosts have a list of all the overflow areas with-in 40 minutes and that information is typically in the visitor center as well.

      If you ever have any questions or are wondering about availability please call the park at 541-394-0002.

  27. September 15, 2014 5:45 pm

    If I had to describe this article in one word, it would be awesome. I think this is a wonderful work that deserves recognition. I enjoyed reading it. I totally agree with you.

  28. NickGerhard permalink
    November 6, 2014 12:24 am

    Please send me more information about this state park. Love to come visit Thankyou .

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