As much as I love to explore new places, I find myself always going back to Blue River Reservoir. Our friend, Alex, was kind enough to share the location to this gem when Sailor Jerry sent me out for an off the grid camping trip a few years ago. Alex hand drew a map and provided a drop pin near the location so that we could find it easily. About 2 hours and 40 minutes Southeast of Portland, located in the Williamette National Forest, the Blue River Reservoir was created for flood control and irrigation. The water is a stunning shade of turquoise and perfect for swimming in the summer, but you can also boat and fish there. Camping along the rim of the reservoir and creek that runs into it is free, but there’s also neighboring campgrounds. Our camping location is a secluded one, but it comes with a few challenges to get there..
After following a pothole and boulder obstructed gravel road, you arrive to the somewhat hidden campsite. A steep walk down the bank of the creek will lead you to a clearing across the way that’s large, flat, and complete with a makeshift fire ring from large stones. There’s a “pathway” across the creek made up of large, yet unsteady rocks. Exceptional balance, good footwear, or in my case.. a natural gripping ability thanks to my monkey toes, will help get you across. When lugging 50lb coolers and other camping gear across, it’s slightly easier said than done, but it’s worth the trouble for the exclusivity of this spot.
After setting up, my favorite thing to do is grab my camera and a book and wander upstream. Watch your step as there’s many slippery moss covered rocks, slugs oozing their way across logs, and salamanders scurrying about. The entire stream looks like some rich housewife shelled out millions for landscaping these perfect little waterfalls and ponds, but this was all nature’s doing. There’s tons of large boulders in the middle of the stream that make perfect picnic and reading spots.
My roommate and I needed to get cleaned up one of the days we were there, so wandered until we found two small pools with tiny waterfalls running into them and a rock wall between them. We stripped down and passed a bar of soap over the rock wall between our makeshift bath stalls all the while shrilling at the cold water rushing down our backs and giggling like we were 12 again. There’s nothing like being naked in nature together to create a great bonding experience! And sorry.. no photos from that venture! 😉
As I mentioned before, you can also swim in the actual reservoir. If you head back the way you came on the gravel, there’s a ramp down to the water. The first year we went, there were actually several people cliff jumping into the water, but with random rocks, logs, and debris.. it’s not the safest!
At night there’s a phenomenal view of the stars in the clearing of trees above the tents. With no nearby campsites, there’s only the sound of the rushing creek which lulls you into one of the most restful nights of sleep you’ll ever get.
With sites like these, it’s important to always clean up and leave no trace that you were there or DNR will soon put a damper on anyone camping in these locations due to littering and people disturbing the natural habitats here. I find myself dragging my feet and feeling slightly heartbroken each time we pack up camp to leave, but I know that we’ll return again soon enough.