July 18, 2012

A place not yet discovered by many Oregonians

One of the many reasons Oregonians love their state is because of the short distances between them and the many destinations heaped with outdoor recreational opportunities. And while many Portlanders travel to recreational havens along Oregon’s coast and in Central Oregon, an area even closer to Oregon’s big city awaits those seeking a vast array of outdoor recreation opportunities. You could call it the place Portland forgot, but it is also an area many Oregonians have yet to discover.
This area along the foot of the Cascades east of Mt. Hood is a contrasting mix of tree topped mountains and arid bench It is habitat for deer, quail, wild turkey, geese, squirrels, bears, cougars and elk, while lakes and rivers in the area team with fish. Rafting and kayaking opportunities abound in the spring and summer months. In the winter, snows lay down a surface for snowmobiling, sledding and cross-country skiing.

Map of Oregon highlighting Wasco County
Map of Oregon highlighting Wasco County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This nameless outdoor wonderland is located in south Wasco County and is, to varying degrees, linked closely to the three hamlets of Tygh Valley, Wamic and Maupin.

One of the numerous destinations in the area is Rock Creek Reservoir, a small lake nestled along the first step of the many ascending the eastern slope of Mt. Hood. It is located only a few miles west of Wamic, just off highway 48. Here, forested, lakeside campgrounds await weekenders looking for more solitude than nearby Pine Hollow Reservoir provides. Children frequently swim the shallower shoal areas of the lake, while anglers take advantage of deeper waters frequently stocked with rainbow trout.

Rock Creek Reservoir
Short drives from Rock Creek Reservoir lead to nearby trailheads, which wind their way to various destinations within the Badger Creek Wilderness. One of the most popular hikes into the wilderness is along the Badger Creek Trail. A twelve-mile walk up the trail delivers hikers to picturesque Badger Lake, a popular destination within the wilderness.

View east toward Wamic and Tygh Valley from Badger Creek Wilderness
A few miles northwest of Wamic is Pine Hollow Reservoir, the centerpiece of a lakeside community made up primarily of vacation and retirement homes. Larger than nearby Rock Creek Reservoir, Pine Hollow’s 240 acres is available to water and jet skiers from the 4th of July weekend through Labor Day. The rest of the year, a 10 mile per hour speed limit on the lake provides a quieter atmosphere for anglers seeking trophy sized rainbow trout.
Pine Hollow Reservoir
The deer population within the Pine Hollow area is large, with deer frequently meandering through or resting in homeowners' yards. Drives through the farmlands surrounding the community can offer glimpses of wild turkeys in fields searching for food and quail scampering along the roadside. Canadian geese at the lake give birth to their goslings during the spring, while osprey and an occasional bald eagle can be seen. Pine Hollow Reservoir has a single campground, while the community surrounding the lake has an airport and a nine-hole golf course at their disposal.

Just down the road from Pine Hollow lies Tygh Valley, located on the shores of Tygh Creek. This quaint little stop is home to the Wasco County Fair. A few miles from town, heading east toward the Deschutes River, is the White River Falls State Park. A day-use area only, the park’s main attraction is the action of the White River plunging over basalt cliffs before its rendezvous with the Deschutes River. The steep descent from the top of the falls to the river below was once utilized to propel water at a high speed down a pipeline and into a power generating facility downriver. The force generated by the rushing water helped propel a single turbine that generated electricity for the area.
White River Falls
Upriver from the falls is the White River game refuge. The silt that seems to choke the stream in some places is a direct result of the rock crushing power of the White River glacier along the slopes of Mt. Hood. Piles of this silt lines the river throughout its journey to the Deschutes River.

Deschutes River in Oregon, at Deschutes River ...
Deschutes River in Oregon, at Deschutes River State Recreation Area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Past the state park a few miles is the Deschutes River and Shearers Falls. Here, local Native Americans still use fishing platforms suspended above the fall’s turbulent waters to fish for salmon. Renowned for its fly fishing, the Deschutes River provides anglers with the opportunity to catch hefty rainbow trout and steelhead. Located just above the falls is a takeout for rafters shooting the river’s numerous rapids. Nearby Oak Springs and Boxcar rapids provide thousands of rafters each year with thrills.

Oak Springs fish hatchery is another interesting destination if you enjoy looking at big trout. Off of highway 197 between Tygh Valley and Maupin, Oak Springs road winds down the steep face of the Deschutes River Canyon to the fish hatchery. From eggs to lunkers weighing 15 pounds or more, fish here are raised and can be observed at various stages of their lives. Springs from the canyon walls are used to fill the hatcheries cement trout ponds, which is key to maintaining a steady water temperature all year long for the fish.

Take a day and wander over to this area of Oregon. And if you do, you’re likely to return home a little more laid back and lot more appreciative of all the state has to offer.
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