This spot is actually in a pretty area, but unfortunately half the sites are pretty close to the road. The road featured a lot of hooting dudes who drive obnoxiously fast, loud and lifted trucks. They will tailgate you if you’re not doing at least double the 30 mile per hour speed limit on the gentle winding roads. The site host was very nice and accessible for questions and firewood. The site itself had a little garbage on the periphery that I picked up. The water pumps weren’t working so you had to have your own water. They had two port-a-potties that were full enough where you definitely had to reckon with seeing other people’s shit. Someone left a pad on the floor. So basically, the campground is better if you score a spot on the water and make sure the facilities are working. Sites on the water are more private but were all taken by Friday at this first come, first served campground. Wherever you set up camp, you may have to deal with rowdy people who don’t respect the land. The stories we heard from those who frequent the area were truly horrific and it sounds like the local police and forest service don’t do much to intervene and enforce the rules.
This was a great stop over on our way to Wallowa Lake. We stayed for two nights just to explore the area. We found a spot on the weekend and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the river after a hot drive. The park is open so there’s not much privacy between camps. There’s a fair amount of activity with the day use area, rafters and fishermen so you’re not going to be alone if you prefer company of others. During the weekdays it cleared out considerably. The vault toilet bathrooms were cleaned daily and garbage picked up.
This is a beautiful location with the Painted Hills and John Day River as a backdrop. However, it’s first come first served dispersed camping and gets busy on the weekends during the summer. Arrive early to claim a spot!
NOTE: You need to have an AWD vehicle, preferably a truck with spares. The road is gravel that gets rutty and difficult the further you go. We got a flat (apparently along with 20 other people) when we went. It’s an unforgiving spot to get stranded with no cell service so be prepared.
Also, it’s totally primitive so you’ll need to haul out all your garbage including any “waste”.
Great location near the lake and town of Joseph. The park is really busy in the summertime with families and groups enjoying the lake. We had a great time spending two nights here, despite the crowds. It was easy to distance from others during covid times aside from the restrooms where mask usage was spotty. There are deer and their fawns that regularly visit which is cool to see (but don’t feed them)!