Driving through central Oregon, between Bend and Mount Hood, you would never guess there’s a gaping river canyon just a few miles west of the highway. Here, the Deschutes, Crooked, and Metolius rivers converge in a deep, sheer-walled gorge of volcanic basalt, where the Round Butte Dam impounds the river waters into Lake Billy Chinook. Visited as a recreation destination since the 1950s, the name of the park is derived from a geologic formation that has since been inundated by the 800–900-foot-deep lake. What started as a tiny, 8-acre parcel in 1946 has since been expanded into a 4,400-acre park that today offers several day use areas and campgrounds for relaxing and recreating on the lake and exploring some of the wonders of Oregon’s volcanic canyons and grassland plateaus.
Campers have two campgrounds to choose from at Cove Palisades. The Crooked River Campground, open February through December and located near the canyon’s east rim, offers 88 tent and RV campsites with electrical and water hookups; the Deschutes Campground, open May through September and located inside the canyon, offers 80 full-hookup RV sites, 90 tent sites, and 3 group sites. Some sites are ADA accessible. Both campgrounds feature water faucets, flush toilets, showers, and off-leash pet areas; a dump station is located near the upper campground. Seasonal nature and interpretive programs are held at outdoor amphitheaters at both locations. Dogs are welcome in the park, but must remain leashed. Campsites are $20–32/night; group sites are $75/night.
The main attractions—and ideal for beating the summer heat—is boating and paddling in the Crooked and Deschutes river canyons, and the wide Lake Billy Chinook where they converge. The park provides boat launches on both rivers, and kayak launches, picnic and swimming areas, and fishing piers at three day-use areas. A cafe, store and fish cleaning station are located near the park’s marina. Kayak and boat rentals are also available here. For taking in a birds-eye view of the spectacular lake and river canyons, the 6-mile (round trip) Tam-a-Láu Trail climbs to the top of a grassy plateau dotted with wild juniper and volcanic boulders. From the rims of both river canyons, there are views of several unique geologic formations, as well as opportunities to watch for some of the area’s resident eagles.
There are 2 campgrounds in The Cove Palisades; Crooked River Campground, which is the upper or rim campground, and Deschutes Campground, which is the lower campground at Lake Billy Chinook level, another 5 miles drive down into the canyon past the upper campground. This review is for Deschutes Campground. We stayed at Deshutes a week with our travel trailer in loop A in mid May. We would stay here again. I would not want to stay here during wildfire season due to the smoke and low visibility (personal preference), plus I'm not crazy about hot weather and it would certainly be hot in the high desert in summer as well as crowded which is also not my thing. Every time you come and go from this campsite, you have a 5 mile drive in or out of this canyon. I have Republic Wireless on Sprint and had no signal within the canyon but did at the top. Husband has Cricket on AT&T and had a signal in the canyon. Our antenna did not pick up any TV channels so download some Netflix to your device before coming here, or maybe have a better antenna than we do if you desire to watch anything. The hosts take great care of the grounds. I do not know the condition of the bathrooms but heard and read they were very clean as well. We spent most of our time away from the campground but the time we were there was pleasant and quiet. Our spot backed up to the road which was slightly above us so didn't really affect our view and there were some trees and shrubbery between us and the road. Occasionally a vehicle would go by that was quite loud which would be louder and more frequent in the busy season. We had a large gap between us and the campsite to our right as well as a view of the palisades on that side. We usually travel with our dog, but she recently passed away unfortunately so this trip was dogless, but I still view things from the eyes of a dog owner. They had a large, grassy, fenced-in dog park that would be a great respite as the campsites aren't that grassy, mostly dirt with some juniper trees, sage, and boulders. Watch for foxtails which we saw in spring, as well as rattlesnakes. We didn't see any rattlesnakes at the time we were there - a rainy, cool week in mid May. Because of all the rain, everything was still very green and all the wildflowers were in bloom. On a clear day you can see at least 6 mountain peaks from the top of the canyon. This is a great spot to explore Central Oregon. In fact, we need to go back because we didn't get to everything we wanted to do but we visited Richardson Rock Ranch, Smith Rock, Bend, Lava Lands, Oregon High Desert Museum, Glass Buttes, and more.
The location of this campsite is surreal. There is a beautiful short hike you can do for sunset to get above the Palisades. Camp hosts are lovely and firewood for sale. Showers also very nice… especially when they are the first you’ve seen in a bit!
All kinds of good stuff. Has everything you need including a small convenience shop. Popular place for families. Not what you want if you’re looking to escape people.
This is high desert so sites are pretty much just dirt. Some have cool vegetation, grasses and even some sage. Scenery is still awesome and the lake it a lot of fun. If getting out on the water is your thing, can rent boats/kayaks. Sunsets are epic. Has showers and legit bathrooms for those who like civilization. Plenty of hiking nearby.
Nice swimming hole and campgrounds for overnight use.
We went out for the weekend trying to camp and stumbled upon this fabulous camp site. We camped one night here and one night on the other side of the cove. All hook ups and water as well as very clean bathrooms.
A nice place for watercraft. Was semi crowded in July. Has a shallow swimming area surrounded by wood docks to protect swimmers from the wake.
This is a great spot for families. Plenty of room to play outdoor games and it has a neat outdoor amphitheater. Lots of wildlife and nice restrooms. Close to the beautiful Lake Billy Chinook.
Good for a very busy campground.
There are actually 2 campgrounds here. One is where we stayed, Deschutes Campground, and the other is Crooked River Campground which is just for RVs. If I was in an RV and had to choose, I would choose Deschutes because it seemed like a prettier area.
This is a good campground but it is very busy and crowded. If you are camping with kids, I think this would be a great campground with easy access to the bathroom, a playground, and a amphitheater where they offer educational talks. Snakes the night we were there! There is little privacy between the sites but it is a really beautiful area. Our site (B62) and the sites nearby back up to rocky hill which was beautiful and we saw quite a few deer. There is a hike you can do right from the campground called Tam-a-lau Trail. It's a mile to the top of the ridge and then another 6 mile loop or so once you get to the top. Nice view of the mountains the and the lake from the hike. You can also rent kayaks which we didn't do.
Overall, I prefer quieter campgrounds but it was a pretty area and nice to have a trailhead right from the campground.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip I tested the Matador DL Backpack. I’ve had this ultralight, waterproof backpack for awhile now and I love it! It is extremely light (4.2oz) and scrunches up to the size of your hand. It's a totally packable backpack so I can just throw it in my gear and it takes up no space. (It’s actually really great for traveling, too) It’s waterproof which is great for Oregon but not needed on the hot day I used it.
There are 2 side pockets for water bottle and a smaller, zipper pocket on the outside which was perfect for my car keys. This is a perfect little, light daypack that I keep in my car (when I'm not using it) at all times because it so handy.
Watch out for rattle snakes
Excellent boating/kayaking from the campground