If you want to tie yourself in knots, try to find out the names of new state parks. One source said that only one state, Delaware, has zero state parks. Another said it has 17. There are some new ones, like Ohio’s Jesse Owens State Park, which opened in 2018. New York State has the most with 1,416 state parks. Alabama has the fewest with 22. My favorite state park is in Utah. Dead Horse Point, a smaller version of the Grand Canyon near Moab, is scenically splendid. Also worth seeing but really remote is Goblin Valley. I got both names from Utah park rangers. Utah has 33 state parks. These two are reportedly the best. My state, Washington, is developing a new state park called Nisqually.
On our way to Baker City this summer, Ruth & I decided to check out Oregon’s newest state park, Cottonwood Canyon. It opened to the public in 2013, and it looks like development stopped then. This is not a criticism. It’s remote and left on purpose in a wild state. The nearest town to Cottonwood Canyon State Park is Wasco. The lower John Day River flows through it. The state of Oregon has 110 state parks that attract 46 million visitors annually. Smith Rock State Park in the middle of the state near Redmond is said to be the birthplace of sport climbing. At 8,000 acres, Cottonwood Canyon is Oregon’s 2nd largest state park. Its largest is Silver Falls. Oregon is a beautiful state of extremes. There is vast desert that is extremely cold in winter and very hot in summer, even-tempered rainforest, a thrilling coastline, etc. Visit and see.
Until 2008 Cottonwood Canyon was the Murtha family’s ranch. Evidence of the ranch still exists. The main canyon is almost 2,000 feet deep and impressive without being one of the more beautiful. It’s a great place to get away from people to swim, fish, bike, and hike. Many of the ranch’s roads are now easy hiking trails where western rattlesnakes like to hang out. Bighorn sheep are often seen too. The park’s main brochure advises visitors to leave snakes alone and they will not bite unless threatened. Fishing visitors like to catch the John Day’s Chinook salmon, catfish and smallmouth bass. They are enthusiastic about the spring and fall steelhead runs. There’s a popular boat launch, and the river is alive with rafts and canoes containing drifters.
Cottonwood Canyon is “rugged and vast”. Ruth and I lingered for only a few pleasant hours in nice weather in the attractive, unattended information station. This newer park offers primitive campsites that do provide potable water and a true Oregon experience.