Cottonwood Canyon 4-29-2014

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jdemott
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Cottonwood Canyon 4-29-2014

Post by jdemott » April 30th, 2014, 5:16 pm

After several weeks of gray skies and cool weather, we decided to take maximum advantage of the sunshine and head east to explore Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the John Day River, a new destination for us. We got an early start and arrived at the park a little after 8 a.m. On the drive, we left I-84 at Biggs and climbed quickly along US 97. I was amazed at the hundreds of wind turbines we saw between Biggs and the park entrance--the last time I was in that vicinity, the construction of wind turbines was just getting started.

At the park, we were greeted by a very friendly and helpful camp host. The park facilities are all quite new and are exceptionally clean and well maintained. There is an information center and interpretive center which we did not visit. There looked to be only two or three campsites occupied at the main park campground. Across the river there is an additional facility which allows horses and we could see a few vehicles there also. Day use parking is free.

We hiked the Pinnacles trail, which follows an old 4WD track along the west bank of the river. The trail is open to hikers and bikers. Another trail which is also allows horses is on the opposite bank. There is very little elevation gain or loss so it is very easy walking--great for looking around and enjoying the scenery. Like its cousin the Deschutes River trail, the trail follows along in a basically treeless river canyon with lots of views of rolling hills covered in sagebrush and grasses. This trail seems to have more dramatic cliffs and rock features than Deschutes River.

This seems like an ideal time of year to visit the area--temperatures rose from around 50 to low 70s. The vegetation was green with lots of interesting grasses and a few wildflowers. Many, many birds and butterflies--we also saw four deer and one snake. The camp host cautioned us about ticks but we didn't have any problems with them.

After about 4-1/2 miles the maintained trail ends at what I believe is the Pinnacles area. We continued along a user path for a while longer until we got to a gate that we thought might be a private property boundary and turned around. A great day in the sunshine with lots of lovely views. We saw one other person on the trail.

Here are a few photos:

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olderthanIusedtobe
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Re: Cottonwood Canyon 4-29-2014

Post by olderthanIusedtobe » May 1st, 2014, 10:20 am

Nice pictures, that's an interesting area. I did a multi day rafting trip on the John Day several years ago, starting somewhere close to the town of Antelope. I like the big green rolling hills. Looks similar to the Grand Ronde River country as you're approaching the Wallowas.

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Splintercat
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Re: Cottonwood Canyon 4-29-2014

Post by Splintercat » May 1st, 2014, 7:23 pm

Thanks, John - wonderful photos and report! It's really quite amazing that we can be in a desert landscape two hours from Portland - we do live in paradise!

Tom :)

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