Bubbling up from the ground fully-formed, the Metolius River, at Camp Sherman, Oregon, is one of the state’s most magical outdoor gems. The Metolius River Valley stretches 13 miles from the mouth. Because it lies just to the east of Santiam Pass, it is solidly in the Central Oregon ecosystem. Blessed in a rain shadow, the valley is dry most of the year – and dry-climate-friendly Ponderosa Pines dominate the forest.
There is a lot going on in the Metolius River Valley – but it’s subtle. It’s not widely advertised. First and foremost, it’s all about the river. At the head of the valley the Metolius emerges from the ground as a fully formed river. It’s not a little spring. It is urgently rushing out at its headwaters. The water is glacier snow melt coming directly from glaciers in the Three Sisters, where it disappears underground and flows for many miles in underground lava tubes, only to emerge in the Metolius River Valley. That means it’s extremely cold and pure.
This river, wending its way through snags and bends, is perfect habitat for trout and salmon. The Metolius River is a national blue ribbon trout fishing stream. When visiting the area you always glimpse fly fishermen trying their luck along its banks.
There are several campgrounds sprinkled along the Metolius River, plus there are lodging opportunities in Camp Sherman. My personal favorite is Allen Springs Campground because it sits along a U-shaped bend in the river. There are three walk-in campsites on the U-shaped peninsula. If you score the campsite at the end of the peninsula, you have guaranteed privacy and simulated back country camping. You just need to walk your gear to it. This guarantees no RVs parked next door. No generators grumbling during the night. All you hear is the glorious burbling of the Metolius!
Forget to bring everything? Fear not. You can get what you need at the Camp Sherman General Store. Even better, the store has delectable made to order sandwiches! It’s worth not bothering to pack your lunch because you can get a scrumptious fresh hand made sandwich at the store! If you order a club sandwich they’ll be cooking the bacon right in front of you.
There’s much more. There is a hiking trail running for at least 10 miles – down one side of the river and back up the other. A visit to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery is well worth the stopover. For swimming and boating, Suttle Lake is just a few miles west of the exit for Camp Sherman off the highway. And in July, if you are up for an alpine hike through spectacular wildflowers, Three Finger Jack beckons.
On this trip my old college buddy Tully accompanied. For dinner, we used the tried-and-true Wok cooking method. Wokking is a great alternative to traditional camping meals. First and foremost it’s delicious! And fresh. It’s great for group cooking because the ingredients are all laid out and then each camper cooks their own. Some may be intimidated at first, but it’s virtually impossible to screw up a Wok meal!
But prior to dinner there is the obligatory post-hike and pre-dinner happy hour. That requires a campfire. We violated all dietary guidelines by having a bag of Fritos. A camping secret is that Fritos and Doritos are excellent fire starters!
No kindling??? No problem, IF you have a bag of Frito-Lay products on hand. The next thing is music. Tully provided plenty of songs from The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, and Eric Clapton. All good blended with the burbling of the Metolius River.
Next day we glimpsed an unusual sight walking along the river. Turkeys!
There were 8 – 10 of them. Who knew! During a lunchtime visit to Camp Sherman we learned there are a lot of turkeys in the valley and they are a nuisance to some homeowners! The ones we saw looked innocent enough.
If you are in Central Oregon you should consider a visit to the Metolius Region!