Caleb Strong, left, and Josh Stickrod set up camp at Union Creek.

Choicest campgrounds often fill up fast

When it comes to trendy commodities, you often hear the phrase "Get 'em while they're hot."

If you're talking about camping at Crater Lake National Park's Mazama Campground, you'd best make your reservations before it gets hot.

The farther into the summer travel season, the more likely campers could be turned away to find refuge in nearby Forest Service campgrounds that may or may not have running water and are guaranteed not to have hot showers.

The sole campground in Oregon's only national park sports 214 spaces, ranging from simple tent spots to electrical and full-hookup spaces.

"From Memorial Day to Labor Day you can count on it being 100 percent full," said Mike Keller, general manager of Crater Lake concessionaire Xanterra Parks and Resorts. "From the middle of the peak season we're close to sold out, especially on weekends. So if people haven't made reservations for the summer, they better book it fast."

This year, because of the dearth of snow, the campground opened two weeks early.

"Historically, we open around Memorial Day weekend," Keller said. "Normally, we still have 8 to 12 feet of snow when we open and have to dig alcoves for people to put their tents in. This year that's not the case, there may be 1 to 3 feet of snow around the main campground."

Although Crater Lake attracts visitors from around the globe, Keller said more than two thirds of the campers are from the West Coast.

There are seven loops surrounded by lodgepole pines about seven miles from the Rim Village.

"It's not like camping in a parking lot or a pumice flat," Keller said. "We've tried to give space for all the campers. You'll see other campers, but you won't be elbow to elbow with the next person either."

Although an occasional bear may be seen, large carnivorous animals are few and far between, he said.

Nightly camping fees range from $23 to $39. Reservations are made by calling 1-888-774-2728.

If you can't get into the park, all is not lost.

There are plenty of U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in and around Union Creek, along Highway 62.

Farewell Bend, just up the road from Union Creek, offers 60 camp spaces with cooking grills and is open from May 1 until Oct. 30.

There are flush toilets and the rate is $20. The camps are a good launching point to explore the Rogue Gorge, the Rogue Umpqua-Divide or the Rogue River Trail.

Abbott Creek Campground is located just about six miles north of Prospect on Highway 62. Turn left onto FS Road 68 and stay to the right when the road forks after 1.8 miles. After another 1.5 miles, turn left and go another 200 yards.

There are 24 spaces on three loops, some along the creek. The region's tall firs provide plenty of shade.

There are vault toilets and you pump your own water. The camping fee is $14.

"We had a big increase in our activity last year," said Mitch Wilkinson, district ranger for the High Cascades, which includes all of the old Butte Falls and Prospect districts, along with part of the former Ashland district.

Among his favorite areas is River Bridge Campground near Woodruff Bridge, also off Highway 62, halfway between Prospect and Union Creek. Turn left on Forest Road 6210 and continue about 1 mile to the campground. There are 11 campsites with good river access.

"There are some nice dispersed spots, but no water spigots," Wilkinson said.

There are vault toilets and the cost is $8 nightly.

Wilkinson said campers in the region should be aware of fire danger and restrictions.

"Given what the fire season could be like, it's likely we're going to have fire restrictions pretty early," Wilkinson said. "People should be thinking about bringing propane or Coleman camp stoves and other ways to heat food rather than a campfire or charcoal burners."

Additional details about all of the area's Forest Service camps can be found at

Farther down the Rogue, Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area rests on the shores of Lost Creek Reservoir.

The campground, about 40 miles southwest of Crater Lake on Highway 62, offers 150 electrical sites with water, 50 tent sites with water, flush toilets, hot showers and an array of recreational opportunities. Tent sites cost $17, electrical sites are $22.

For folks wanting a base camp to explore Jackson and Josephine counties, Valley of the Rogue Park, just south of the the city of Rogue River, offers 85 full-hookup sites, 59 electrical sites with water, 20 tent sites with water nearby, and six yurts. Oregon State Parks generally feature excellent bathroom facilities.

Tent sites cost $19, electrical sites cost $28, and full-hookup spaces are $28.

Oregon State Parks use the Reserve America fee-based reservation system at

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or 










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