Cottonwood Canyon State Park is rugged and vast, from the vertical cliffs carved by the John Day River to deep side canyons and arid, rocky grasslands that extend for miles in all directions. The park’s 8,000-plus acres are open for exploring, stargazing and contemplating the elemental forces that carved this unique landscape.
The iconic John Day River is a long, remote, natural river system, with 252 free-flowing miles. The lower John Day River offers one of the best spring and fall wild steelhead runs in Northeast Oregon. Anglers also come for catfish and smallmouth bass. J.S. Burres, across the river, is a popular boat launch for rafts, kayaks, canoes and drift boats.
The park is also open to hunting outside the developed area. It is the responsibility of the hunter to stay current on regulations. Check the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website for information.
Visitors may see Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, white-tailed jackrabbit, big horn sheep, and all manner of smaller mammals. Both migratory and resident bird populations are a treat, especially for raptor lovers. The rocky landscape also invites reptiles, including at least six species of lizards, western rattlesnakes and various nonvenomous snakes. April and May put on a show of wildflowers.
The Lone Tree Campground sits near the John Day River and offers a primitive camping experience with potable water and vault toilets nearby; ADA showers and flush toilets are within walking distance. See the park map for location of site types and amenities. Available sites:
4 rustic cabins (2 pet-friendly) are open year-round by reservation only
Backcountry camping is allowed on a hike-in basis—no dispersed vehicle camping is permitted. This includes the BLM land surrounding the park and Starvation Lane, which are managed by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Those looking to backpack may park at any trailhead, and must hike a minimum 1 mile before setting up camp. Please be sure to contact park staff with any questions relating to your trip.
Groups can reserve the Experience Center (50 people max), day-use area (70 people max), and picnic shelter (100 people max) by calling the park office at 541-739-2322 x0, or in person at 89600 Biggs Rufus Highway.
The Pinnacles Trail and the Lost Corral Trail, each 4.3 miles one way, follow either side of the John Day River downstream. The Lost Corral Trail, leaving from JS Burres, is open to both hikers, bikers and equestrians. The Pinnacles Trail, leaving from the end of the campground, is open to bikers and hikers.
Upstream, the Hard Stone Trail is open to foot traffic only. Or, you can strike out on your own along old, unmaintained ranching roads that lead into the back country. The J.S. Burres day-use area is a popular boat launch for rafts, kayaks, canoes and drift boats.
Campfires are typically prohibited during the summer months.
Cottonwood Canyon is remote, rugged and deliberately undeveloped. A few basic steps can help you stay safe.
No. There is no cell phone coverage at the park, including the campground, day-use area and river trails. Do not rely on cell phones for emergency communications.
Check the information station for latest information about wildlife, river conditions, fire danger and more. If you’re hiking alone, consider stopping at the Visitor Station to record your planned returned time. We’re not monitoring your trip, or launching a search if you don’t return by your stated time. Take plenty of water and dress for the weather. Vault toilets are available only in developed day-use areas. Also consider carrying a hat, first-aid kit, large bandanna, knife, flashlight and matches. And, always wear solid hiking boots or shoes.
John Day River maps and other boating resources are available through the Bureau of Land Management website.
The John Day River Recreation Guide is a web-based, printable PDF which includes maps and recreation information about the lower John Day River basin from the small community of Kimberly, located at the confluence of the John Day River and the North Fork John Day River, down to Tumwater Falls, an impassable waterfall located just upstream from the John Day arm of the Columbia River.
An online permit is required to boat between Service Creek and Tumwater Falls and is available on Recreation.gov.
No problem if the RV is self-contained. Cottonwood does not have sewer hook-ups; electric hook-ups or individual water hook-ups.
Potable water is centrally located in the camp loop but is not available individual at each site. Tanks can be filled in the day use parking area.
There is no sewer dump and the closest dump station is 30 minutes away.
Campsites at Cottonwood Canyon are available on a first come-first served basis through March 2022. On Jan. 3, 2022, the Lone Tree Loop sites and the End of the Road Group Camp will be on the reservation system for stays April 1 through October. Cabins are available for reservation through reserveamerica.com. Other reservable facilities are available through the park office.
Yes. Cottonwood has 2 vault toilets in the campground area without running water. Flush restrooms and shower facilities are available in the cabin area.
Campfires are allowed in the campground at campsite fire rings. Campfires are typically banned from early summer to late fall, June 1 to Sept. 30. For up to date fire restriction information, please refer to the park alert banner.
Yes, fishing is allowed per regulations set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Hunting is open outside the developed areas of the park per regulations set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Visitors may see hunters and their harvests during the late summer through mid-winter depending on the hunting seasons. Hunting areas begin approx. 1 mile from developed areas. Open areas are posted.
The John Day River is closed to motorized watercraft year-round between Clarno and Cottonwood Bridge and is closed seasonally from May 1 to September 30 between Cottonwood Bridge and Tumwater Falls. The river is closed to personal watercraft (jet skis) year-round upstream of Tumwater Falls.
Yes, but leave them alone; they won’t bite unless threatened. Look for more information at the park and trail heads. If you’re bitten by any kind of snake, get to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.
More than likely, they’re ticks. Most active in spring and early summer, they find their way to you in long grass and brush. Although not poisonous, ticks can spread diseases. Avoiding Ticks