Picture yourself settled down in a comfortable campsite a short distance from a beautiful lake or a placidly flowing river, towering trees either above you or not far away, fish rising to feed on the latest hatch on the surface of the water. If it’s summertime, the sun is almost guaranteed to be shining and even if it’s not, there’s a sense of peace just being away from it all.That’s camping in Linn County, in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley, and we’re loaded with opportunities for great overnight, outdoor experiences.
County, U.S. Forest Service and state campgrounds abound – with some 30 campgrounds within the county borders, along with a variety of private tourist RV parks and campgrounds.
Linn County Parks and Recreation Department operates five campgrounds, plus Clear Lake Resort, all located next to lakes or rivers in the county, with a total of more than 400 sites. In addition, the parks department also manages six U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, totaling some 100 more individual campsites, in the Cascades along Highway 20 in the Sweet Home Ranger District in the eastern portion of the county. For more on county campground camping, click here or read on:
Clear Lake Campground – This beautiful resort is a seven-acre cabin and camping facility on the banks of a spring-fed mountain lake. Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy day use facilities, a restaurant and lodge on the shores of an extremely clear pool believed to have been created by volcanic activity. Clear Lake is located three miles south of the junction of Hwy 20 and Hwy 126. The resort is open year-round with four rustic tent sites and a variety of cabin options to choose from. Cabin options are: rustic which hold from one to four double beds; modern, with two double beds and includes running water, bathroom/shower, refrigerator and propane cook stove; and modern barrier free with three double beds. Guests choosing rustic accommodations have access to restrooms and a shower house.
Non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake, and visitors have access to a boat ramp and boat rentals. In addition to lake activities guests have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful hiking trails, picnicking, horseshoe pits and a group fire pit.
River Bend Campground is located on the unspoiled waters of the upper South Santiam River six miles east of Hwy 20. This relatively new campground sits in a bend of the river and is encompassed on two sides with half a mile of river frontage. Finalizing the second phase of the expansion, there are now 83 spaces – 73 with electrical and water hookups, and 10 primitive sites that afford traditional camping. The new phase also includes a group camp of six sites that surround a banquet table and group fire ring separated from the rest of the campground; infrastructure is in place for five proposed cabins, two of them completed.
The park includes traditional outdoor recreational activities such as natural areas, trails, river access and fishing mixed with upgrades such as a playground, RV dump station, restrooms, showers and enclosed shelter.
Sunnyside Campground – This is a thriving 98-acre park located on the Foster Lake perimeter, east of Sweet Home and three miles off Hwy 20. This lush park offers 165 campsites – 132 with electrical/water hook- ups; dump station, restroom/shower facilities, boat dock, moorage, day use areas and many family friendly amenities. Additional options include a playground for young children, sand volleyball court and lake shore access with picnic tables. A fishing pond is stocked with trout, as well as bass, bullhead and bluegill; this is a good place for young anglers and those with limited mobility.
Waterloo Campground – This 128-acre park offers the perfect opportunity to fish, hike swim and relax in a shaded setting on the banks of the South Santiam River. Located eight miles west of Sweet Home, this year- round campground accommodates 120 campsites, 100 with power/water hookups, a dump station and shower facilities.
Nestled among tall, shady trees and surrounded with picnic tables and a grassy area, there are two playgrounds perfect for great family fun. Additional family friendly amenities include easy beach access, an off-leash dog park and an 18-hole disc golf course. The day use picnic area is sprinkled with shade trees, and is a great spot for group get-togethers and family reunions. Picnic tables, stone fire ring, kitchenette area and trash cans are provided for group use. For outdoor events such as weddings, there are three covered shelters that include electricity and water.
For avid fishermen, Waterloo County Park offers two boat ramps. Come for both the spring and fall Salmon runs and discover why the South Santiam is such a great fishing spot.
Whitcomb Creek Campground – This campground is set in a 328-acre park located up the Quartzville Recreation Corridor on the abundantly wooded shores of Green Peter Reservoir. There are 39 primitive camping sites throughout this fertile campground with potable water, vault toilets and day use facilities available. A variety of spots afford beach access to water recreation such as swimming and fishing from the shore; for those interested in sailing or boat activities, there is a boat launch.
The beautiful U.S. Forest Service campgrounds located along the Highway 20 corridor east of Sweet Home consist of primitive camping among lush forest settings along the South Santiam River. These are fairly primitive campgrounds with pump water only and vault toilets; trash collection and recycling are also available. Various Forest Service trails are easily accessible for the hiking enthusiasts. For additional information on USFS campgrounds, click here.
Trout Creek Campground – Approximately 18 miles east of Sweet Home along winding Highway 20, this is a family-friendly campground with many sites right on the river. Tucked under the shade of large Douglas fir and hemlock trees, are 24 sites suitable for tents/RV camping and eight that will accommodate RVs over 24 feet.
There is also a welcoming day-use shelter with large fireplace. Fishing is a popular activity as well as hiking the 2.8-mile Trout Creek Trail from which the Menagerie Wilderness and Walton Ranch Interpretive trails area accessible.
Yukwah Campground – Approximately 18.25 miles east of Sweet Home, situated in tall second-growth Douglas fir, there are 20 sites all suitable for tents/RV camping and one deluxe site with a barbeque and two picnic tables . Spaces are spacious and private, offering a peaceful camping experience.
Yukwah is located close to the Menagerie Wilderness which includes a number of rock pinnacles where mountaineers use the spires and cliffs to hone their technical climbing skills. This is primarily a low elevation wilderness and can be used year-round. Along a .3 mile nature trail that winds along the river’s edge are opportunities for swimming and fishing; two fishing platforms are available for easier access.
Fernview Campground – This lush green setting boasts campsites perched high above a scenic portion of the South Santiam River which makes for a beautiful view. Located 22 miles east of Sweet Home, it offers 11 tent campsites, two suitable for small RVs. The Rooster Rock Trailhead is situated just across Hwy 20 and acts as a gateway to the Menagerie Wilderness and the Old Santiam Wagon Road runs through the back of the campground. Due to the uneven terrain this location is not suitable for young children or senior citizens.
House Rock Campground – Approximately 25 miles east of Sweet Home off Latiwi Creek Road, this campground is situated amid old-growth fir trees at the confluence of Sheep Creek and the South Santiam River. There are 17 campsites with picnic tables and fire rings plus four picnic sites, each with barbeque, in a free day-use area. From there, the House Rock Trail begins and continues for a .8-mile loop along the river and past the base of House Rock Falls and returning to the day use area.
The trail uses a portion of the historic Santiam Wagon Road which was used to transport livestock east across the Cascade Mountains to central Oregon’s grasslands. Many of the sites have riverfront access to shallow swimming in the chilly snowmelt waters. For those not attracted to braving the frigid river, there is the alternate choice of angling from the shore for native cutthroat trout.
Lost Prairie Campground – Located 38 miles up Hwy 20, east of Sweet Home, this shaded campground is located along Hackleman Creek in a verdant area of fir, spruce and Douglas fir, creating luxurious setting. The roads and spurs are paved for smooth access to the 18 sites, two of which are suitable for RVs. Swimming and fishing are easily accessed and for the hiking enthusiast nearby are trailheads for several hiking trails, including the Hackleman Old Growth Grove, Cone Peak and Iron Mountain Trails. The Old Santiam Wagon Road runs past the campground and is easily accessible.
Lost Prairie boasts year-round fun; due to its elevation of 3,200 feet, winter activities are popular from this location. Area sno-parks offer extensive trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. One trail from Lost Prairie is fairly difficult; another links to the Tombstone Sno-Park, about two miles west. Several other ski trails originate in the area, offering great views of the Cascades in the winter.
There are some 15 more USFS campgrounds in the Detroit, McKenzie and Blue River ranger districts along the northern and eastern county borders. For more on Forest Service campgrounds, click here.
Plus, the state Parks Department operates Cascadia Park, on the South Santiam River on the east edge of Cascadia, with 25 primitive sites in a particularly lush forest setting. For additional information or reservations clickhere.
Cascadia State Park – Located in a lush green, former resort setting along the South Santiam River 14 miles east of Sweet Home, the first thing that strikes you when you arrive is the tranquility. While the park is quite large, there are barely two dozen campsites, making this a great spot for an intimate getaway. This campground contains 25 tent sites on a first-come basis, as well as two group tent areas available for reservation.
If day use is more desirable, there are picnic sites with fireplaces as well as group picnic areas with covered kitchens and electricity. Both areas share the open meadow play space filled with a kaleidoscope of spring and early summer wildflowers.
Tall Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock give the park a green setting all year while deciduous alder and big leaf maple trees add spectacular color in the fall. It’s possible to catch glimpses of soaring osprey, wandering deer and other forest creatures; please observe and do not disturb!
If hiking interests visitors, a pair of trails provide the chance to explore the area along a mile trail leading to the spectacular Soda Creek Falls. A newer trail ushers hikers on a three-quarter mile loop through ancient Douglas fir trees along the South Santiam River allowing the opportunity to swim and fish in the crystal clear river pools. Ruts from the historic Santiam Wagon Road are visible in the park (the trail was used as a military route in the 1800s).
Yellowbottom Campground – This campground is located up Quartzville Creek Road, about 25 miles from Sweet Home, past the emerald depths of Green Peter Reservoir and along the winding flow of the historical Quartzville Creek. Here visitors can find a delightful recreational surprise.
Yellowbottom Recreational area offers 22 tent/trailer camp sites with water and vault toilets available. It is surrounded by a landscape of old-growth and maturing forests, accented with flourishing vegetation and wildflowers this location offers access to hiking and picnicking along Quartzville Creek. Yellowbottom is noted for its great swimming hole, fishing and recreational gold panning as well. No reservations.
There are also opportunities for more primitive, or “dispersed” camping, throughout the Willamette National Forest. Camping and picnicking are allowed in both developed and undeveloped areas along the Quartzville Recreational Corridor east of Sweet Home. Undeveloped areas where camping is not allowed are blocked or signed as “no camping” and all camping is limited to a 14 day consecutive stay.
Private camping opportunities range from lakeside RV parks along Foster Lake in the east county to comfortable campgrounds and parks near Interstate 5 in the pastoral agricultural heart of the valley.
Whether it’s luxurious overnighting in a beautiful RV site or roughing it in the wilderness, Linn County can provide any camping experience you desire!