Rivers are the lifeblood of Eastern Oregon: irrigating crops, supporting wildlife, and providing abundant opportunities for swimming, fishing and other adventures. The wild and scenic John Day River is no exception. It’s mighty waters define the region known as the John Day River Territory and are a spectacular playground for outdoor lovers of all ages and interests.
If you’re an avid fisherman, the John Day River provides secluded, world-class fishing holes. The river is best known for its smallmouth bass, but there are also plenty of largemouth bass, summer and winter steelhead, trout, and bluegill to go around. Be sure to check out our list of Shuttles, Outfitters and Resources for the names of local outfitters that offer guided fly fishing trips.
If rafting and relaxing is more your speed, we’ve got you covered too. The John Day River is relatively peaceful with few rapids. During the summer months, the water slows down and warms up, making it perfect for swimming and floating in the Eastern Oregon sunshine.
If you’re a nature lover, bring your binoculars and hiking boots and keep your eyes peeled for the elk, deer, big horn sheep, birds and other wildlife that call the John Day River’s rugged canyons home.
Just need to get away? Here in Eastern Oregon, we know there are few things more restorative for the soul than roaring campfires, roasting marshmallows, and nights spend under a canopy of stars. Luckily, there are plenty of peaceful places to unwind along the John Day River’s banks.
Our recommendation? The brand new Cottonwood Canyon State Park.
Jagged cliffs, steep canyon walls, and an untamed river provide the backdrop for Oregon’s newest and second largest state park. The sprawling 8,000 acre oasis is a gateway to adventure, offering excellent fishing plus plentiful hiking, wildlife viewing, and star-gazing opportunities.
Cottonwood Canyon opened in September 2013 and includes a day-use area, primitive 21-site campground, and a nearby boat launch at J.S. Burres Park. There’s also a unique interpretive center, which introduces visitors to life on an Eastern Oregon ranch.
You’ll find no phone service and a pervasive what’s-your-hurry lifestyle here; the perfect combination for contemplating Cottonwood Canyon’s peaceful river, stunning landscape, and spectacular sunsets.
Whether you’ve got two days or a week, there are plenty of options to relax and take in the John Day River’s recreational opportunities and natural beauty. So pack up your gear and come see for yourself why we’re so proud to call this wild and scenic river home.
Click here for trip ideas and more information about the John Day River Territory.
Taste of Oregon's Old West
The John Day River Territory recently hosted the inaugural Taste of Oregon's Old West, an event celebrating the culinary and agricultural offerings of the businesses and communities along the wild and scenic John Day River, at Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Nearly 300 people turned out for the event.
There were horseback rides, free fishing lessons, a guided hike along the spectacular John Day River and fantastic vendors sharing their goods and services with guests.
Click here for more pictures from this great event.