Very pretty area outside of Thorp. Campground is primative, pit toilets, but does have water and garbage. Unfortunately, the site is closed from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Also, there is a concrete ford to cross Taneum creek to get in to the site. Depending on water levels and the kind of vehicle or trailer you have, it might be difficult to navigate.
This park is located in the beautiful Cape Arago area of the South-Central Oregon coast. The geography of the area is dominated by Coos Bay, a small sound that surrounds Cape Arago by water on three sides. Why this is important is the same reason that another more notable "Bay Area" is infamous, marine inversion layer. Because there's so much cold water around, it cools the air close to the ground, colder than the air above it in the heat of summer. This temperature difference creates a lot of instability and clouds/fog. So, while only a few miles away in the Oregon Dunes or south towards Bandon it's sunny and 80's in August but around Sunset Bay it's cloudy, misting and 68. For you, this might not be a downside at all! If you're in Portland and getting a bit tired of baked lawns and the regular 6 weeks of temps in the 90's brought to us by climate change, the gray skies of Sunset Bay may be just the ticket! For those looking for a more sunny and warm beach experience, the rest of the magnificent Oregon coast may be a better bet.
The park itself is aging but serviceable. At the hight of high season (early August) one of the four men's showers in our loop (one of four) was out of order all week. A day or two seems reasonable but an entire week during the busiest time of the year, you would think fixing this would be a priority.
Oregon's Coast parks are (like the rest of the state) wonderful. This state knows how to do parks! Programs for families, camp hosts who are present and helpful, rangers who are knowledgeable and competent. However, I'd discourage anyone from thinking that highway 101 is a peaceful, wilderness experience. The demise of extraction industries in this country has lead to a head-on collision of urban blight (shuttered mills, dilapidated fishing terminals) and rural poverty. You are much less likely to run into a friendly mom and pop mercantile when you realize you forgot to pack graham crackers for your s'mores; much more likely a loud and greasy pit stop with a beer brawl going on in the back parking lot. Likewise, there is plenty of opportunity for a quiet evening enjoyment of campfire but also a loudmouthed drunk who wondered in from town and is arrested after getting into it with the park ranger.
Pretty good reviews here but I'd add a couple things. There are two campgrounds on either side of the park. One has at least two loops of tent sites (no hookups) with water, flush toilets and showers. This site is below the dam that creates Lake Easton. There's a nice river walk tail along the Yakima River but no lake view. There is also a very busy rail line immediately on the other side of the river. Many campers have mentioned the freeway traffic noise in this park but I was bothered much more by the rail noise. There's a small switching yard only about a mile away from the site in the town of Easton. The horns and start up of these huge trains at 3 AM sound like the end of the world!
The site on the opposite side of the park (NW) has one loop of full hookups, asphalt parking pads for RV's and is on a bluff overlooking the lake. The views will take your breath away! While you are well away from the rail noise, this campground is much closer to the freeway. Depending of the time of day (and the number of motorcycles going by) it can be a little difficult to hear conversation.
Both spots are very pretty but you have to "pick your poison" when it comes to the noise.
I won't expound on all the reviews. This campground is magnificent and a jewel for our state but there are a couple flies in the ointment (or citronella candle, if you will).
First is the walk-up or "first come-first served" service advertised by the forest service for this site. One loop (of about four total, I think) is devoted to walk-up campers, no advanced registration. This is a valuable service as many of our lives don't fit with weekend get-aways planned nine months in advance. Week-long vacations, yes! But, this wonderful spot is less than an hour from a major metropolitan area. It's packed every weekend during the short summer months of our state. It's really great that Cle Elum ranger district understands this and TRIES to accommodate it's visitor's needs. People willing to take a Friday off from work and drive up in the morning should be able to do so with a reasonable chance of getting a spot for the weekend.
Now for the issue… Many campers have figured out a little hack into the system. I drove up to the site early on a Friday to find about half of the walk-up spots paid for and reserved but completely UNOCCUPIED. No gear, no vehicle, nothing. I looked at the reservation slips on the posts to see the spots had been reserved in some case two or three days previously for nearly a week stretch. Several other sites it was the same story but a car was parked in the spot, an empty car. No gear, no tent, nothing. This was at 8 AM, mind you! The campground has rules about occupancy after paying for a walk-up site to try and counter people usurping their reservation system. I complained to the person stationed at the campground entry post. She said that despite the posted rules, they had been directed to honor reservations paid for walk-up spots, no matter if they are occupied or not. It's sad but unless you are willing to take a little drive from your place in the Seattle-Tacoma area on a Wednesday night and pay for a "first come-first served" spot for four nights turn around and drive back and then in again on Friday night with your party, you are out of luck in July and August at this lovely resort.
A second issue is the Bureau of Reclamation is planning a huge project for Kachess reservoir. Climate change has lead to annual drought and extreme fire hazard in the Yakima River and Kittitas Valleys. The project will result in the reservoir being lowered by up to 80 feet in the summer! This would render the boat launch at this resort useless and seriously impact the enjoyment of site. Stay tuned for more developments.