Value 3: Recreation
We value outdoor recreation and the contribution it provides to a happy, healthy, stress-reducing lifestyle.
Benefits 3.1. A place where recreation easily coexists with the wild landscape will be created.
Benefits 3.2. Natural outdoor play on the land and water will be taken to its highest level.
Benefits 3.3. Spaces where visitors can become part of the canyon in a wide variety ways will be provided.
Benefits 3.4. Oregonians with a passion for both traditional and newer outdoor pursuits will be welcomed.
Visitors find the State Park web site has all of the information they need. Two to five day journeys by horse, raft, mountain bike or foot are offered. They can schedule on line or talk by phone with State Park staff at Reservations Northwest. They just need to show up at the rendezvous site in Portland to meet the Cottonwood Canyon van and bring their enthusiasm and outdoor clothes. Everything they need to bring is described for each journey. Their car is left at home. They decide on a three day river trip and book the date.
Wildlife Observation: Since the park contains a variety of wildlife including the largest herd of bighorn sheep in the state and nesting raptors in the canyon, it may be possible to plan for opportunities to allow the public to view wildlife in the area. This might include viewpoints, trails, and guided walks.
A family on a two day backcountry camping trip enjoy a clear view of the night sky. Looking up from their tent awning the Milky Way is visible with the naked eye. As your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, over 3,000 stars light up the night (compared to the 200/300 stars when we look up night in our towns/cities).
Allow for a “wilderness” gateway on the edge of the park that safely introduces visitors to Cottonwood before they are immersed in the wild landscape
Open the park for the possibility of alternative off season uses – Cross Country Skiing, Hunting, etc.
Prior to the rafting trip, participants attend an introduction to Cottonwood Canyon and basic canoeing skills at another State Park. This might be Tryon Creek for participants from the Portland area, or Smith Rock for participants from the Bend area, for example. On the night before the trip, participants stay in Condon hotel for a Cottonwood Canyon talk, dinner and good nights rest. The trip length would be designed for a three day outing with stops along the way that tell of story of the John Day. Suggest trips in spring or early summer and in early fall.
Bike riders from Portland go though Cottonwood and spend a night in Conden or Wasco.
Cottonwood Canyon employs volunteer rangers and a “live park” interactive site to assist with the Junior Ranger and Young Scientist programs that reaches over 25,000 children within 100 miles of the park.
Through concessionaires, offer guided boat or raft trips with nature or history experts on-board. One of the best ways to visit and experience the canyon views and wildlife is through a boat trip. For example, a three day float down the John Day river from Clarno, would encounter a new reach of river that is distinctively different. The shoreline is lined with spike rushes, willows, and cottonwoods. The channel becomes more complex and braided, with seasonal side-channels offering refuge for salmonids such as spring Chinook and summer steelhead. We are alert to avoid lodging our boats in the large woody debris that form aquatic habitat not found in other reaches. This renewed riparian area and more complex river reach signals arrival into Cottonwood Canyon, a place where agencies and interests have joined to improve habitat representative of the lower John Day River basin that will inspire more effort throughout the lower basin. I know we are approaching the river-access only campground where we can camp with some amenities after several days in more primitive conditions. After unloading the boats, we hike up slope through native bunchgrasses and Basin Big sagebrush to the ridgeline. Upon twilight, we are able to observe emerging wildlife. Once rare in this region, Washington ground squirrels and pygmy rabbits scurry across intact cryptogamic crusts. Bighorn sheep are suspended on cliffs across the river. Pronghorn antelope graze on slopes and as we approach the take out the next day, we are very happy to find our cars have been safely shuttled.
Visitor new to wilderness experience is given instruction in wilderness ethics and camping at park entrance. With certificate in-hand and by signing the registration book; they can take a 1-2 person tent, find a remote location, enjoy night skies, with a small campfire for a pot on tripod, and a solitude setting for dusk.
Canoe, kayak, and raft trips on the John Day River: Each type of craft has different limitations for the class of water they can travel through safely. The John Day River in this area has water that varies from class 1 to class 5. This means there are some portions that are suitable for beginning canoers, and some that can be dangerous even for rafts. The development of trips will require planning to develop put in and take out points for boaters.
Overnight group fly fishing expedition. A local outfitting operation runs concession offering day long and multi-day guided fly fishing trips at Cottonwood Canyon. They to put together custom trips that fufill your dream fly fishing experience: “The remarkable setting that the John Day River offers makes for lifelong memories and great friendships….not to mention the amazing fly fishing John Day River has to offer. And the best part, you get to do it all over the next day. You awake on the banks of the river in Cottonwood Canyon to the smell of a hot and hearty breakfast that is if you didn’t already jump off your cot and wader up for a little early morning fly fishing constitutional. Our typical day on the water includes a streamside lunch and fly fishing until you need rotator-cuff surgery. When your on a John Day River Multi Day Fly Fishing Trip there’s always water around camp if you still got it in you. Our camp accommodates up to ten anglers comfortably and we try to maintain a 2:1 ratio when possible. We especially welcome the non-fisher on the trip; in fact we offer non-fisher trips only, so you can learn with your fellow rookies without ever feeling foolish.”
A person day hiking along the flatlands in solitude enjoys the unbroken silence of the canyon.