An Update–Finally

We have fallen behind on the blog—every time we tried to emerge from the weeds, it seems like we get pulled back down by the puncture vine. Or tangled by the Russian thistle. Or strangled by the Kochia.

Our emphasis this summer has been on managing the invasive weeds while watering the natives. Unfortunately, water brings more weeds. Double-edged sword. No doubt, we are looking forward to the winter lull. On the whole, we have been keeping up, and hopefully this will start to reflect in fewer flat tires. Puncturevine, lesser known as Tribulus Terrestris, has truly been a thorn in our side. First generation Star Trek fans may harken back to the well-known episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Here at the Ol’ CWC, were calling our version of overpopulation of goat’s head “The trouble with Tribulus”.

So please continue to use Slime and carry several spare tubes! We are doing our best to rid the park of this nuisance.

In that vein, we give a big shout out to Sherman and Gilliam County Oregon Youth Conservation Corps plus our fearless hosts. These folks have done the weed pulling and watering in hundred degree heat. And you know what hand pulling puncture vine and watering by hand gets you? Tired. Hundreds and hundreds of hours have been given. We are very thankful for these folks. We can’t do it without them.

This fall and continuing through the winter we are hoping to do several projects, which will hopefully have a big impact on the camping experience at Cottonwood. The first of these projects will be constructing wind breaks in campsites. The second is the completion of two shade shelters, one in the main campground and one in the hiker/biker camp. The third is working to establish better grass cover in the campground.

At this time, we are scheduled to construct cabins, a shower house and an RV dump station between 2015 and 2017. Over the coming years, we will also monitor the electrical draw to calculate if there is enough electricity to install some full hook-up sites in the campground.

Although the number of visitors has fallen with the heat between June and August, we have remained busy—about three quarters full every weekend. That means about 15 of our 21 drive-in camp sites are occupied on Fridays and Saturdays. We estimate some 22,000 people have visited the park in its first 10 months. And we know that the hunting, fishing and fall rambling folks are getting ready for their visit. We look forward to seeing you, and please let us know if you have any questions.

29 thoughts on “An Update–Finally

      1. Thank you for all your responses to our horse camp queries. A horse camp at JS Burres would suit us as well as one at Cottonwood, since they are across the river from each other.

        One thing you need to know about horse campers is that we DO NOT REQUIRE power or potable water. We are accustomed to camping without. Many of us carry generators and others just “tough” it. I personally carry 50 gallons of water and no generator, and sometimes it gets darn cold sleeping inside my horse trailer and I’m still grateful for the place to park it and keep my horse safe!

        It seems to me that it would be possible to coordinate some volunteer work with OET (Oregon Equestrian Trails) members. We do a lot of building and maintenance work on horse camps and trails. There’s also BCH (Backcountry Horsemen).

    1. The horse camp may be several years out. However, in the next five years we hope to greatly increase the mileage of trails open to horseback. As we plan and work to increase the trail system we will keep the updates on the blog.

  1. I’m wondering about accommodations for horse camping. It looks like a beautiful area for riding and I’d love to be able to do that! Thanks!

    1. There are not horse camping accommodations at the park at this time. However, there are horse camping accommodations at the Sherman County Fairgrounds in Moro which is 30 minutes from the park.

      And Cottonwood is a wonderful area to ride a horse–just take precautions and be aware of our summer heat.

    1. We also love the State Parks!

      There isn’t a horse camp but there is horse camping thirty minutes away in Moro at the Sherman County Fairgrounds. Right now there is about 10 miles of horse trail (5 miles out and back) along the river on the Gilliam side leaving from JS Burres. We are in the planning stages of expanding that trail system and will hopefully be able to in the next five years.

  2. Have you considered using seed weevils –

    Microlarinus lareynii

    and stem weevils –

    Microlarinus lypriformis

    They’ve been effective in California.

    1. Once we get the puncture vine out of a critical mass stage we may try using seed weevils. Our problem is so large and so pervasive that weevils aren’t a viable alternative at this time.

      However, I cannot wait till I can sit in the field and just listen to the weevil eat away.

  3. When, if ever, will the summertime campfire ban be lifted at the campground? Is this a permanent summer ban?

    1. A Red Flag fire warning was just posted for the area and given the bad fire year we may be a little later then the norm of September 30th this year. As soon as the ban is lifted we will post it on the blog and OPRD website.

      1. Good info to know. We are planning an early October camping trip. Were tent campers. So we already have the wool socks and hats packed but would be nice to have a fire.

  4. My husband and I have been there 4 times in the last 5 weeks and we are looking forward to seeing what it looks like in winter, spring and fall.we loved floating down river in our kayak’s and walking and bike riding the trails. Even though our tent blew over once and we got flats on our bikes we had an awesome time

    1. Wow–you had the full Cottonwood experience! These are the two issues, flat tires and flat tents, we will be working aggressively on trying to find solutions in the coming year. I’m glad you still enjoyed yourselves and have one more good story to tell.

  5. Thank you for your updates and hard work. I’m looking forward to a cabin stay in the next few years. Any idea how cold it gets at night in late September if I was planning to camp? Thank you!

    1. September is a variable month with some cool nights and days but it can also heat up. I would say an average low is in the low to mid 50’s with it dropping into the lower 40’s later in the month.

      I would suggest checking the weather for Wasco before you head out.

    1. Paul,

      This was done in agreement with BLM since bikes aren’t allowed in the Wilderness Study area which about 2 miles from the trail head. It made sense to not allow bikes to ensure folks weren’t crossing over the Wilderness Boundary and inadvertently breaking BLM rules.


      1. Thank you, Paul. Bicycles are incompatible with the idea of wilderness, as those who have seen the impacts can well attest. Long story.

      2. Still bike access downstream on both sides of the river? I’m not very interested in biking but others in my family might be.

  6. We don’t need an official camp, although that would be great in the future. As long as we can primitive camp, we’re good to go. We also practice LNT (Leave No Trace) so you won’t find rutted wheel tracks, paved groomed paths that look like bowling alleys, trash or other signs of equestrian occupancy. When we cannot find an official bunker for manure, we either scatter it or haul it back with us. Scattered manure (horse manure = water plus hay or grass, weed free certified) biodegrades faster than dog poo… so it’s a non-issue. We expect to have parity in access with other trail users sooner rather than later! 🙂 … another note, there is a large population of folks who cannot access on their own legs (or any form of non-motorized wheels) and they ride horses. An example, is a woman who is 45 who has had horses for decades and MS for 10 years. She can still ride and enjoy nature on her horse. With help from her friends who ride and camp with her, she gets it done! I am certain there is some sort of grant funding for folks who qualify under ADA. So MS, and other mobility disabled riders don’t need folks to build special amenities for them (such as paved paths, smooth hard packed treads, etc. at great cost) — just allow horses and you are half-way there. Thanks for being open- minded.

  7. I like what Linda said. Horses are a part of nature, just like any other animal. It’s been my experience horse people are very concerned about keeping wilderness “clean”, not destroying it by making their own trails or leaving trash. We are as much part of Oregon as everyone else. Parity with other groups is a must.

  8. So true. I can’t hike any more due to leg problems but I can still ride. I also hate trash, etc and find myself cleaning up after other people as well as myself.

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