Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cascadia State Park

Settled on site site of the former Geisendorfer Resort, Santiam Wagon Road, and travel route for the Kalapuya Indians, Cascadia State Park has natural beauty and history in spades.  Though the spring that attracted tourists has long since been shut down due to arsenic, one can find remnants of why this park has persisted as an important gathering area over time.

Fishing, tubing, wading, swimming, and other river activities are all infinitely possible from the day use area, located an easy walk away from the campsites.  A quick hike to the majestic Soda Creek Falls is immediately on site, punctuated by huckleberries in the correct season.  The history enthusiast can locate ruts for the Santiam Wagon Road, a patio along the river from the Geisendorfer Resort, and Kalapuya petroglyphs.  As a note, the petroglyphs are located on private land (though there is a trail from the day use are), so it is a good idea to contact the Forest Service to learn about guided tours.  While you can locate many of these things, there are not a plethora of interpretive markers.  Cascadia boasts a good variety of walking-distance activities, but I feel like opportunities could be more thoroughly developed so this category represents a 4.5.

Site Quality
The sites are a mixed bag at Cascadia: some are right on the road with moderate vegetation between sites, while some are nestled back with thick vegetation and a good sense of seclusion.  Some sites are small with limited room for tents while others are ample in size.  No matter where you are, though, you can expect a good amount of shade as the park is in an established mixed forest.  All the sites are all close to the central bathroom and the water faucets.  Note that while there are flush toilets available, there are no showers and no access to heated water.  Highway 20 is occasionally audible from the day use area, but it is far enough that it is undetectable by the tent sites.  Finally, though there are not any sites directly on the river, it's a very short walk.  Based on the lack of privacy in some sites, they overall earn a 4.5.

Restrooms and grounds were kept impeccably clean.  Everything I encountered was fully functioning.  Landscaping around the park was done with great respect for the wilderness, but still functional for park users.  The hosts at Cascadia are fabulous and the rangers are great!  Maintenance scores a 5.

Overall Value
Cascadia is flat-out beautiful.  One day in the park tells you why it has continuously proved to be relevant for travelers throughout time.  With trees and a river to shelter you from the worst of the summer heat, I feel like there's no bad time to visit this park.  However, in order to get the fullest of experiences, it is virtually required to track down staff or volunteers to hear more about the park's history.  Priced reasonably yet well off the beaten path, the overall value is a 4.5.

All sites featured a mobile table, fire pit, and cold water access.  Pleasantly, all sites are rustic so while it's possible to stick an RV in some, it is certainly discouraging.  Even the day use area is well-equipped for a trip with picnic tables, fire pits, a field to play in, trails, river access and water.  Wood-braced plastic garbage cans are available throughout the park, but unfortunately all recycling must be packed out as facilities are not available at this park.  As with all state parks, cash, credit, and check are acceptable modes of payment.  I spotted chipmunks, two species of squirrels, crows, fish, crayfish, and Stellar's Jays.

Miscellaneous Notes
Depending on the time I have been there I either didn't notice many biting insects or I was unaware of being swarmed and feasted upon by no-see-'ums.  The moving river does deserve a lot of credit for keeping the biters down, but they are by no means absent.  For the most part, there was a glorious lack of cell phone reception, though AT&T did have a couple of bars.  Finally, the sites are all first-come, first-served.

How hard is it to find?
Cascadia State Park is actually rather easy to find as long as you trust yourself.  From I-5, you can take Highway 38 to Highway 20 or just get directly on Highway 20.  The park is right off of 20, though I always begin to wonder if I've missed it just before it appears.  There is a big brown Oregon State Park sign for the turn off.

Will you go back?
Absolutely!  However, my preference would be to leave Thursday or Friday morning in order to get my pick of sites for a weekend camping trip.  I thoroughly enjoy the area.

Cascadia State Park is a lovely rustic area with a variety of activities to enjoy.  It is a fabulous getaway to distance oneself from the hustle and bustle of city life and reconnect with nature.  If you've the time, it's definitely worth a visit at an overall 4.6.