Fascinating archaeological discoveries await visitors and campers to the Macks Canyon Recreation Site in the State of Oregon. This Bureau of Land Management recreation site has a campground and boat ramp, and is located on the south banks of a bend in the Deschutes River, where boating and fishing activities are readily available. Visitors to the recreation site pass the Macks Canyon Archeological Site as they approach on the BLM access road. The campground is situated at 475 feet of elevation and characterized by a high desert landscape along the wild and scenic river.
The archaeological site on the access road is the location of a prehistoric village with low depth hollows, partially underground, and circular-shaped formations which were the site of houses that comprised a winter village of the Sahaptin peoples of the Columbian Plateau. Many artifacts and deposits have been found here, dating back about 2000 years.
The recreation site is located at the end of the access road and is a popular campground with 17 individual sites and three group sites. There are vault toilets, garbage receptacles, fire pits, and picnic tables at the campground, which is managed jointly with the local Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. There is a fee for overnight camping and boating on the river The archaeological site has no fee nor facilities.
While exploring the archaeological sites and camping at Macks Canyon visitors also have the opportunity to visit the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Hood National Forest, Willamette National Forest, and Umatilla National Forest which are located within a few hours drive away.
The city of Maupin, Oregon is just under one hour away from the Macks Canyon Recreation Site, and travelers will find numerous facilities, services, amenities, and activities here. To reach the Macks Canyon Recreation Site from Maupin, take Bakeoven Road to the BLM access road, and turn left. Continue for seven miles to the Deschutes River Road. Take the Deschutes River Road for one mile to Oregon Highway 216, turn right, and continue for half a mile, then turn left onto the BLM access road. The BLM access road is mostly gravel surfaced and 17 miles long. The Macks Canyon Recreation Site is at the terminus of the road on the river.
The BLM access road is maintained and generally accessible for RVs and tow vehicles. However, you will need to proceed slowly, about 20 miles per hour, as gravel roads have rough spots, can be rutted in wet weather, and are prone to developing washboard, especially at intersections.
When traveling during the summer temperatures can be very hot, as this is a desert-like environment. Ensure your vehicle is well supplied, maintained, and has adequate fuel and coolant levels for the trip. Cell phone service may be spotty as you travel away from populated centers.
The Macks Canyon Recreation Site is an open area with some vegetation and trees providing shade. The campground is located on the south shore, on a bend of the Deschutes River. The site has a boat ramp and is a popular put-in and take-out area for boating, floating, and rafting on the river.
There are 17 individual camping sites and three double and group sites located here. The picnic area and vault toilets are ADA accessible. There are also garbage collection services, so you don't have to pack out your trash. Sites have picnic tables and fire rings; however, visitors should note that campfires may be restricted between June 1 and October 15. The campground is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, for maximum stays of up to 14 days.
There is a fee for overnight camping and a small fee for boating access to the river. An interesting archaeological site is located just down the access road, where a prehistoric village was once situated. Excellent fishing is available from the shores or water surface at Macks Canyon Recreation Site and is a favorite pastime for campers in the area. The trailhead for the Deshutes/Mack Canyon hike is also located here. The campground is open all year round, and a campground host is available in the peak season. Pets are permitted but must remain leashed and under control.
The fishing season along the Deschutes River is between May 1 and October 31, annually. A valid State of Oregon fishing license is required for fishing along and on the river.
The Deschutes River has excellent sport fishing. Species available for catch on the river include steelhead trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. The steelhead run which begins in July is especially popular with fishing enthusiasts.
Fish populations in the river are supported by significant insect populations, which make for great fishing, but can be annoying for recreational users, bring plenty of bug spray! If you fish from the river surface by boat, there is a small fee for launching on the watercourse.
A boat ramp at the Macks Canyon Recreation Site allows access to the Deschutes River for boating activities. Boaters can travel down the scenic river with its high cliff walls, fish, kayak, canoe, float, or whitewater raft on the river. A boat pass is required to put into the river for a small fee.
You can arrange for shuttle services in Maupin to provide pickup service when floating or rafting down the river, to get you back to your vehicle or base camp.
The archaeological site at Macks Canyon is the site of a prehistoric winter village of the Sahapti people. Explore the semi-subterranean circular sites, which were the foundations for houses at this village on the Deschutes River. The site goes back at least 2000 years, and human activity at the site may go back as far as 5000 years.
Keep an eye out for artifacts and traces of historic human settlement and activity at the archaeological site. Do not disturb or remove artifacts. There are also educational signs at the recreation sites along the river corridor that outline the natural history of the waterway.
Looking for an opportunity to take in the scenic natural landscape along the Deschutes River, when the weather is not appropriate for outdoor activity, due to extreme heat, wet weather, or chilly temperatures? Take the Lower Deschutes River BackCountry Byway, which terminates at Macks Canyon.
The byway winds along 32 miles, on the east bank of the wild and scenic river. View the rapids on the river, steep canyon walls, and high desert wilderness from the comfort of a climate-controlled vehicle! The byway is gravel-surfaced but well maintained and accessible for most vehicles year-round. The byway extends from the Locked Gate Day use area on its south end to the Macks Canyon Campground on the north. Watch for cyclists which also frequent this scenic drive.
During the peak summer season, temperatures are hot for strenuous hiking activities, and crowds rafting and floating down the river make the area busy and noisy for enjoying the natural wilderness areas near the Macks Canyon Recreation Site. Hike off-season to avoid the crowds.
The Deschutes River from Macks Canyon Hike Trailhead is located at the north end of the Macks Canyon BLM campground and follows an old railroad grade. This is an out and back hike, extending to the Harris Canyon Water Tower, a 23.6-mile round trip, with 350 feet of elevation gain. The hike is rated as difficult with rough terrain. Take lots of water for your hike, especially in hot weather. You can also hike at nearby Mount Hood in the gorge.
Nearby Mount Hood National Forest offers plenty of great winter sport activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The Billy Bob Snow Park has groomed trails for snowmobiling and un-groomed backcountry ski trails. The McCubbins Gulch area has many miles of snow-covered trails appropriate for backcountry snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
You will need to set your own track so be prepared for some strenuous activity! Dress in layers, take plenty of water, and ensure someone off-site knows of your plans prior to winter activities in wilderness areas.