Crooked River, Oregon: Skunk Near Miss!

31 12 2020
A bend in the very crooked Crooked River

In late September 2020, with Oregon still engulfed in wildfires, I was able to find a spectacular smoke-free area for camping. Oregon’s Crooked River is a National Wild and Scenic river system. It has a scenic drive and scenic bikeway running along its length. It wends its way along a forested canyon, into Prineville Reservoir, and then continues out of the reservoir until it empties into Lake Billy Chinook. The section I visited is below the reservoir. It has some 10 campgrounds sprinkled along its length.

I looked at all of them, and picked out the biggest site I found, Chimney Rock Campground #1. Wow. Set at the end of the campground, it offered complete privacy as it had no neighboring sites. It was capable of handling six tents. And it had 100 feet of riverside real estate. Still, privacy was no concern, as being late September, there was only one other site used.

It was super peaceful. I settled down to read a novel. It wasn’t long before the wildlife came back to its routine. I saw kingfishers, dragonflies, red-tailed hawks, ducks, a family of otters, robins, blue herons, and more. It’s also known to be home to mule deer, bald eagles, ospreys and golden eagles. Redband Trout, re-introduced steelhead, and rainbow trout are sought by anglers.

Here’s a photo of my tent…which will help my explanation of my encounter with a skunk in the night!

I have several tents. They all have “bathtub” style floors, with some solid material running up from the bottom to form the ‘bathtub.’ This one has a pretty low tub wall. When the weather is fine, I skip the tent fly so I can star gaze. On this night, I fell asleep by about 10. A few hours later, I awoke to sounds of scuffling outside. Something scratching about. Usually, these sounds are from deer walking to the water for a drink. I switched on my headlamp. But, similar to using high beams in a snowstorm, I only saw the screen on the inside of the tent. My head was just at the bathtub wall. So, I put the light up against the screen. And immediately I was horrified! What did I see? Not more than six inches from my head, black fur with white stripes! Skunk! Now, it cannot kill me, but it sure can ruin my trip! There must have been four of them. I kept perfectly still. Best not move! Incredibly, they were not bothered in the least. They just kept on sniffing around, seemingly in search of a meal. Unimpressed by me, they ambled along on their way.

The next morning I took it very lazy, and made a mid morning breakfast, and read some more. I packed up, and then spent some time fishing. I caught lots of weeds, had three fish get away, and caught one very juvenile landlocked steelhead. This river was once home to steelhead which made their way all the way up from the Columbia, but dams caused extinction. They have been reintroduced and a small population is expanding in the area, but they cannot reach the Pacific.

I highly recommend!





The Cabin at Lake Billy Chinook – Cove Palisades State Park

18 11 2010

Since I’ve lived in Oregon, I’ve heard about Lake Billy Chinook. I only knew it was some kind of big lake in the canyon of the Deschutes River or something. I also heard lots of motorboats and houseboats plied its waters.

So, it wasn’t all that high on my list of places to visit. If it was full of jet skis I didn’t want to be there. However, I got an invitation to share a cabin post season – and that piqued my interest.

Seems sometime in October the marina and campgrounds close, and therefore the power boats dwindle. Yet, being in Central Oregon, this lake is bound to have some decent weather – it might be a spot to escape the rain on the west side of the Cascades.

Everyone was really stressed out at work the week before we went. Office network upgrades, e-mail server blowups and mid term grading dominated agendas. So it was GOOD to get away to such a quiet spot.

We reserved a cabin at Cove Palisades State Park managed by Oregon State Parks for two nights in early November. The cabins turn out to be very nice! And they have a nice view, and though a bit close quarters, they are suitable nonetheless. Each has a kitchen (no stove) and outside propane grill with burner.

Who's gonna do the dishes tonght?

April, Warren, Jessie and myself quickly settled in and enjoyed the first night’s meal. Mine was soul stuffed with crab (Trader Joe’s) accompanied by green beans/hollandaise, with a baked potato. Then we rallied for a game of “Therapy!” That’s a fun way to learn about each other!

We also went outside to see the 100% clear sky and fabulous stars. We were able to get decent reception on our iPhones, and made use of the star chart software. Plus I brought two powerful binoculars. So we could check out Jupiter and the crab nebula! Way cool.

Suiting up!

Saturday we had omelets and then took off in the kayaks. I didn’t know that Lake Billy Chinook is formed by three rivers – the Metolius, Deschutes, and Crooked Rivers. Each can be followed to its confluence with the lake. Today we paddled out to the Metolius arm, because we knew there was an island where we could have lunch.

The lake is indeed inside deep canyons.

The walls are vertical in places. All along you can see the colonnades formed by cooling basalt during the epic Oregon basalt floods. We were the ONLY boats on the lake pretty much all day. We only saw two other boats.

Skullduggery kayak detailing

Fauna consisted of seagulls, cormorants, king fishers, terns, feral goats, ospreys, bald eagles, falcons, deer and pigeons. We knew other wildlife abounded, though.

We returned to the cabin about 4:00. I showered and then set about preparing the evening’s dinner – a burrito bar. Tortillas, onion, beans, sour cream, guacamole, tomato, salsa, olives, bell peppers and more graced the table. But during dinner prep and following, everyone seemed to collapse. It couldn’t be today’s paddle – we didn’t paddle very hard, or far. The likely culprit was work. Work had exhausted everyone – and their bodies were letting them know it was time to recharge!

Glassy reflections everywhere on Sunday

Only Jessie and April were cognizant enough to play the night’s game, Scattegories. Warren fell asleep on the couch and I tried and failed to follow the game!

Sunday we awoke refreshed and whipped up a feast of pancakes topped with nuts and raspberries, with bacon on the side.

Chefs at work!

Then off to explore the Crooked River arm of the lake. Along the way we were privileged to witness two very healthy coyotes padding along the rocks on one side of the canyon!

I’d definitely recommend the cabins – especially in the off season!