Willamette Valley, Oregon: Schwarz Campground

We stumbled upon this Oregon Campground when we were on our way to Baker Bay but got discouraged by the crowds. It offered everything we needed and then some.

Campgrounds, dispersed camping, rivers, lakes, and parks fill the Willamette Valley. There are so many options that it may not be easy to find the campground that is the best fit in Oregon. Schwarz Campground is currently top of the list for our last minute, mid-week, get-a-ways.

Here are 5 reason why!

Open Space!

I will even say this again- Open Space! This campground is full of space. There is at least a hundred yards of open grass for any one to use. It was just calling for a pick up football game or a practice round with my pitching wedge.

In addition to open space, this campground closed approximately every other site to allow for better social distancing. Double sites are limited to one at this time (summer 2020), sites closest to the public river access are closed, and a good percentage of the regular sites are closed.

Row River Trail

The Row River Trail is a paved 14 mile rails to trail route. Grab your bikes and hop on just outside the park entrance!

I chose to drive to Dorena Reservoir, drop off CD and the kids and drive back down to the main road in order to ride back towards them. Dropping the car this way was overkill for sure as the trail was easy riding, fast, and fun. Next time we will just leave from the campground and ride as far as we like, then turn around and go back. Either way, this trail was a win!

River Access

The campground is located below Dorena Lake, downstream from the dam. Only two sites offer high quality private river access but there is a well stationed common access. Even in these times of social distancing, there was room to spread out along the river bank.
Note that the dam is several hundred yards up stream but there is a sign indicating that water levels may fluxuate without warning. I took note of the sign as I sent the kids out in their kayaks and I think it is worth paying attention but we were far enough from the dam that I wasn’t too concerned.
We kayaked, explored a nearby island, watched and heard a beaver chewing on a stick, fished for hours, went swimming (it is cold!), and found lost treasures on the river bottom. There was never a dull moment.

Campground. Site access to river.
Oregon Campground: common river access

Huge campsites at this Oregon Campground!

Again, there is plenty of space here, even in non-COVID times. Each side has a large picnic table, fire ring, parking area, and tent site. There are just enough big trees to enjoy but not so many that you are cold and attached by bugs.

Oregon Campground

Hiking Trails, Horse Shoes, A Playground, and Wildlife

There are plenty of wild turkeys, lizards, and ducks. There is a huge open space, horse shoe pits, a playground (closed currently), and hiking trails. You can walk from the campground, through the woods, and to the overlook on the dam. From there you can view Dorena Lake and its recreational boaters. There is a public boat launch several miles up the road and several campers were obviously headed that way.

Oregon Campground

Which park amenities did we use? Well, this is it and it was awesome!

HELPFUL TIPS:

My Sprint cell service was sufficient to download texts but not emails. After driving 4 miles to town, I had enough bars for a zoom conference.

There is poison oak along the trail.

Bring water shoes if you plan to get wet!

Keep an eye out for the alligator lizard. Seriously, we saw it and it was weird!

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Oregon Winter Stay-cation: A Morning In Our Sprinter

Here we were in the middle of an Oregon winter. The sun was shining. It was nearly fifty degrees. We are waist deep in home projects and ready for a stay-cation.

Sunday morning started off lazily but the sun was too tempting to stay home.

McDonald – Dunn Forest is a short drive from our house. Using my mom instincts, I packed a light lunch and spare socks.

Sitting in the van is like a breath of fresh air. There is something comfortable, simple and refreshing about it. I think we all feel it.

The Vineyard Loop: Oregon Winter

It is a well traveled 3.4 mile route with a view from the top. We like to sit and stare off into the distance. The kids made up a game where they were having a Superbowl party for cats and dogs. They walked and talked the whole way.

We spent an hour and half walking and a half an hour in the van.

Van Life: Memories of Summertime

The kids took theirs shoes off and hopped up on the bed. They looked out the window with the door open and the sun shining in. I got the snacks out but they didn’t eat. CD and I ate the cheese and crackers until it was time to go. I am sure that they would have stayed up there looking out all day.

Sprinter life requires a different pace. It is good to be reminded that a slower pace is just fine too.

Our trail
The trail is easy to find.
Trees and sky. A scene from a book.
Our view was perfect. The end of the trail.
The woods were green and wet with rain and it was a great day.
The woods are thick and full of lichen, of course.

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