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A Cottonwood Canyon Thanksgiving

December 2, 2014

So the last time around I roped a host into writing a blog post. I figured this was such great idea I would continue to pass off my work to others. We had our first Thanksgiving feast out here at Cottonwood with many friends and family. Below is a report of some good friends experience. I have taken for granted the limited email, no TV and limited cell coverage out here. I forgot what a change it can make in an experience. So come on out, unplug and enjoy! For more on a little digital detox this is a great article I read recently.

A Cottonwood Canyon Thanksgiving

Kristi, Ben and family

This year, our little family decided to try something different. We received an offer from our friends to celebrate Thanksgiving out at Cottonwood Canyon State Park so we packed up the car Wednesday and headed out.

From the Portland metro area it is only a little over a two hour drive. It was beautifully scenic. First the drive through the Columbia River gorge to our old stomping ground of Hood River, Oregon where we ate lunch. Then on to Cottonwood where we drove up and over rolling hills planted with winter wheat and wind turbines.   My BPA tour guide (aka, husband) provided interesting information into the landscape and the inner-workings of how the turbines create electricity from wind. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any pictures due to the sleeping children in the back of our car.

Upon arrival we unpacked and went exploring. The rustic landscape and quiet felt as though we had stepped back in time and felt awe at the people who had homesteaded here. I have only been to eastern Oregon once prior to this trip but I found a new appreciation for this area. The landscape was beautiful and I could see the appeal of the area.

This was the view from the private residence:


On Turkey day the remainder of our group arrived. Exploring, feasting, and game playing commenced.



Being accustomed to watching football, calling family, reading the newspaper, and being able to get instant information made me wonder how this weekend and holiday would unfold without modern technology. We found it was relaxing and less stressful. It also allowed us to connect with family and friends without so many distractions. The kids (18 months and 3 ½ years old) loved running around and playing by the river and in the dirt. It forced them to be creative with their play and not rely on their toys for entertainment. I felt that being here for Thanksgiving accentuated and allowed us to focus on what was most important in life.


Before leaving on Friday, we took a little hike with the kids.   It was the perfect way to end the holiday. We will definitely be coming back to fish in the John Day River at Cottonwood Canyon come the sunny summer days.

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November at Cottonwood

November 19, 2014

Since we haven’t been keeping up on the blog and pictures we thought we would recruit our camp hosts to share their experience out here at Cottonwood. And if you are thinking of hosting please let us know–we need someone in July and August.

Hosting at Cottonwood – Our first hosting experience.
November 1 – 23

Jim Deaton and Elizabeth Daniel

November comes and November goes, with the last red berries and the first white snows. ~- Elizabeth Coatsworth

Beautiful weather greeted us at Cottonwood Canyon the first couple of weeks… Sunshine, warm days and

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. . a full moon2014-11-08  1879


Jim was a very happy camper-host that first weekend when he caught two wild Steelhead… a 30-inch and 26-inch. Then the river changed… got a bit murky and the fishing slowed way down.
Jim worked with Rangers Ryan, Dave and Tom burning the nasty Russian thistle. As the snow was falling on November 13, they completed the burning.

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I worked at keeping the restrooms tidy. It was that time of year when the flies were diminishing but the spiders were looking for someplace warm for the winter. The hiker/biker restroom had one of the largest prettiest Black Widow Spiders taking up residence.

I captured her and… yes, I 2014-11-08  1840murdered her.

She was a beauty.



I also am working charting the vegetation… shrubs and trees in each of the campground sites. I am hoping to finish it up next week when the snow is gone from the campsites.

We had some wonderful warm fall weather… Saturday, November 8 was a quiet calm sunny warm day. We had a great view of the pretty sunset with pink cottage cheese clouds while we were having wine around the campfire.

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On November 12, the weather changed and all of a sudden we were in a snowstorm and dropping temperatures.

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Jim and I and the dogs took a walk in the snow out Pinnacles Trail on Friday, November 14. It was absolutely gorgeous. The highlight of the trip was seeing and watching eight Tundra Swans… what a treat.

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November 16, the temperature is a balmy 8 degrees above zero. It is cold and there is quite a bit of ice on the John Day River.

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On November 17, the John Day River froze all the way across it near the boat launch and at the end of the campground.

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We are really happy to have the bright sunshine during the day that almost thaws things out. The sunny quiet days are what makes this canyon in November so special.

The forecast is calling for rain and warmer temperatures as our time here at Cottonwood come to a close. We are looking forward to returning in April 2015.

Jim Deaton and Elizabeth Daniel

Volunteer Work Party September 27th

September 9, 2014

Work. Party. And you ask if we are up to our normal hijinks of selling work as a party? Not at Cottonwood where even work is a good time.

Come join Cottonwood and our partners Western Rivers and Solve as we work to improve the riparian corridor. As for the party–free lunch proving the saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch”.



Saturday, September 27th; 10 AM to 1 PM   

Type of Work: Plant maintenance; removing vegetation, specifically non-native kochia, puncture-vine and Russian thistle from the base of plants and installing a drip irrigation system
Meeting area: Cottonwood Canyon State Park Visitor’s Center map
What to bring: Heavy leather work gloves; closed toe shoes; long sleeve shirts and pants; drinks and snacks
Volunteer slots available: 12
Cottonwood will provide: All materials and tools; coffee and lunch

For more information or to register please reply to this post or call the park at 541-394-0002.

An Update–Finally

September 1, 2014

We have fallen behind on the blog—every time we tried to emerge from the weeds, it seems like we get pulled back down by the puncture vine. Or tangled by the Russian thistle. Or strangled by the Kochia.

Our emphasis this summer has been on managing the invasive weeds while watering the natives. Unfortunately, water brings more weeds. Double-edged sword. No doubt, we are looking forward to the winter lull. On the whole, we have been keeping up, and hopefully this will start to reflect in fewer flat tires. Puncturevine, lesser known as Tribulus Terrestris, has truly been a thorn in our side. First generation Star Trek fans may harken back to the well-known episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Here at the Ol’ CWC, were calling our version of overpopulation of goat’s head “The trouble with Tribulus”.

So please continue to use Slime and carry several spare tubes! We are doing our best to rid the park of this nuisance.

In that vein, we give a big shout out to Sherman and Gilliam County Oregon Youth Conservation Corps plus our fearless hosts. These folks have done the weed pulling and watering in hundred degree heat. And you know what hand pulling puncture vine and watering by hand gets you? Tired. Hundreds and hundreds of hours have been given. We are very thankful for these folks. We can’t do it without them.

This fall and continuing through the winter we are hoping to do several projects, which will hopefully have a big impact on the camping experience at Cottonwood. The first of these projects will be constructing wind breaks in campsites. The second is the completion of two shade shelters, one in the main campground and one in the hiker/biker camp. The third is working to establish better grass cover in the campground.

At this time, we are scheduled to construct cabins, a shower house and an RV dump station between 2015 and 2017. Over the coming years, we will also monitor the electrical draw to calculate if there is enough electricity to install some full hook-up sites in the campground.

Although the number of visitors has fallen with the heat between June and August, we have remained busy—about three quarters full every weekend. That means about 15 of our 21 drive-in camp sites are occupied on Fridays and Saturdays. We estimate some 22,000 people have visited the park in its first 10 months. And we know that the hunting, fishing and fall rambling folks are getting ready for their visit. We look forward to seeing you, and please let us know if you have any questions.

Putting Cottonwoods Back into Cottonwood

April 27, 2014

We had another great service day out here at Cottonwood this weekend. In partnership with Solve and Western Rivers 15 volunteers planted 70 trees and shrubs; cleaned up two acres filling half a dumpster; and finished the landscaping in the camp loop. Makes me tired just writing it all down.



This volunteer project was the final “connection” of a major restoration planting on over a mile of the John Day from the upriver side of the bridge down along the entrance through day use and continuing to the campground. This restoration effort includes planting almost 2000 Alder, Cottonwood, Choke Cherry, Mock Orange, Currant and Nootka Rose along with seeding of native grasses. Over the coming years this will develop into a mature riparian community providing habitat and cooling shade. Great for the critters two footed, four footed and winged.

A Late Spring and Event Change

April 3, 2014

Due to the late spring we will be making a change on the Wildflower Hike which had been scheduled for April 12th. We will be moving the hike back to May 10th at 10 AM and swapping the Wildflower Hike with the Ranger Led Interpretive Hike. So . . .

April 12th Ranger Led Interpretive Hike–10 AM

May 10th Wildflower Walk–10 AM


On another note we had a great turn-out for our fist service project thanks to Western Rivers Conservancy with eight people planting over 300 shrubs. This was a huge success and a huge amount of work. Thank you; thank you; thank you. And it’s not to late to sign up for the next service project on April 26th. Image




Come Experience Spring at Cottonwood

March 23, 2014

The Canyon Wrens are singing. The wildflowers are starting to pop. The days are warmer. Longer. Sunnier. Spring is returning to Cottonwood.

To celebrate we have partnered with friends to offer several different ways to experience Cottonwood this spring. From service projects to wildflowers walks to Ranger guided hikes we have an experience to help you escape from the cabin and cure the fever. All of these events meet at the Visitor Center and we would like an RSVP either through commenting here or calling 541-394-0002 or 541-394-0004.

Can’t make one of these events and have a group of folks who would like to come out for a guided hike or volunteer project? Contact us and we will work with you to make it happen.

Saturday April 12th: 10 AM-Ranger Guided Hike

  • Type of Hike: Ranger Led hike focusing on the development of Cottonwood Canyon State Park
  • Distance: 3-5 miles
  • Meeting Area: Cottonwood Canyon State Park Visitor Center
  • What to Bring: Closed toe shoes; drinks and snacks
  • Maximum number: 10–please call or comment to RSVP

Saturday, April 26th: 10 AM to 4 PM

  • Type of Work: Transplanting of Sage along road cuts; caging and bark mulching of native plants; hand removal of non-native species; fence removal–this project is a moving target based on weather and other factors more information will be posted
  • Meeting Area: Cottonwood Canyon State Park Visitor Center
  • What to Bring: Heavy Leather work gloves; closed toe shoes; long sleeve shirts and pants that can sustain a barb wire snag/rip
  • Minimum Age: 10 (Due to nature of work)
  • Maximum number: 10–please call or comment to RSVP

       In Partnership with Solve It! Earth Day Projects

Saturday, May 10th: 10 AM-Wildflower Hike

  • Type of Hike: Wildflower Hike led by Region Natural Resource Specialist
  • Distance: 3-5 miles on flat ground
  • Meeting Area: Cottonwood Canyon State Park Visitor Center
  • What to Bring: Closed toe shoes; drinks and snacks; questions to stump the expert!
  • Maximum number: 10–please call or comment to RSVP

Can’t wait to see you this spring!


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