Ainsworth and Viento campsites available for reservations


Camping at Viento State Park.

Camping at Viento State Park.

Now, you can plan your Columbia River Gorge vacation.

The campgrounds at Ainsworth State Park and Viento State Park  are accepting reservations for campsites. Online reservations are available by clicking on the Reserve Online button on the upper left of each park web page (park web page links above).  Make your reservations 1 day to 9 months in advance of your visit or call 1-800-452-5687, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Same-day registration is available if sites remain open—for one night only. Check availability online or call 1-800-452-5687, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

February camping and hiking at Cottonwood Canyon


Sometimes, you have to practice what you preach so we decided to try winter camping. Our family selected a date long before a weather forecast, but lucked out with a sunny Presidents’ Day weekend at Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

Cottonwood-Canyon-green

After setting up our campsite in the first-come, first-served campground, the first thing we noticed was the tinge of green on the hills and bluffs.

Cottonwood-Canyon-fogWe weren’t the only ones ready for a winter camping escape. Campers in tents, in their pickups and campers and even campers sleeping in their cars awoke Sunday to a thin fog layer hovering over the John Day River. The sun quickly dissolved the mist and melted the frost.

Cottonwood-Canyon-trail

The park has miles of trails along the river. Our longest hike took us upstream on the Hard Stone Trail. The trail is an old road and lives up to its name. We were glad for our sturdy boots.

Cottonwwod-Canyon-near-end

The park brochure shows the trail ending at 1.5 miles, but the trail continues for another three-quarters of a mile or so. We walked on to see the rock ledge meeting the river in the distance.

Cottonwood-Canyon-cliffs-2

And, we weren’t disappointed. We stopped for a break and realized we should have brought more drinking water. Something to remember for Cottonwood Canyon in all seasons.

Cottonwood-Canyon-moth

What are they? I don’t know their names but they brightened up the landscape on our way back to the campground.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park (park info and driving directions)

Park brochure, campground and trail map

Eagle Watch set for Feb. 21-22, 2015


They’ll spot you long before you see them

Golden eagle

Our fancy optics and 20/20 vision are no match for eagle eyes. While you’re busy focusing your binoculars on the raptors at Eagle Watch 2015, their 20/5 eyesight has already zeroed in on you and decided if you’re prey.  Learn more about these magnificent birds Feb. 21-22 at Round Butte Overlook Park and The Cove Palisades State Park in central Oregon.

The 20th annual celebration features activities to explore the natural and cultural significance of eagles and other raptors that live in the Lake Billy Chinook area. Hosted by Oregon State Parks, Portland General Electric (PGE), and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the celebration runs 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Feb. 21 and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 22. Festivities will begin at “Eagle Village” at Round Butte Overlook Park’s visitor center, 10 miles west of Madras.

“This is a fun, family event,” said event coordinator and Park Ranger Erin Bennett. “Visitors may glimpse our resident bald eagles and golden eagles, as well as learn about the significance of the eagle to tribal culture and traditions.”

While you’re there, meet a great horned owl and Aquila, a rehabilitated golden eagle. Children can build a bluebird house (Saturday) or a bird feeder (Sunday).  Wild Birds Unlimited and Madras Garden Center will show how to create a backyard refuge to enjoy birdwatching year-round.

Join a guided eagle viewing tour scheduled for each day; shuttles depart from Round Butte Overlook Park.  Wildlife biologists have recorded 11 bald eagle pairs and nine golden eagle pairs living in the area year round, and migrant bald eagles join the resident birds January through March. PGE will also offer a daily tour of its salmon hatchery facilities; sign up at the entrance tables.

To cap off the event, the Quartz Creek Drummers and Dancers will give a special presentation of tribal drumming and dancing sponsored by Warm Springs Power and Water Enterprises, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Admission to all Eagle Watch events is free, and complimentary parking is available at Round Butte Overlook Park (an Oregon State Parks day-use permit is required to park vehicles at The Cove Palisades State Park).