The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most scenic areas in Oregon. From the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River tumbles through many different geological regions, creating carved cliffs and cascading waterfalls along its route. The Dalles, where Memaloose State Park is located, is part of the drier and warmer area of the Gorge. Memaloose State Park sits in one of the warmest sections of the Gorge and can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees in the summer, but the park remains a cool and lush escape from the heat.
Memaloose State Park is a seasonally operating park and campground. The name Memaloose comes from a Chinook word associated with burial rituals. The park was named after an island in the Columbia River which was once a traditional Chinook Indian burial ground. The park’s original name was Memaloose Island Overlook, but when reconstruction on the highway added private land to the original park’s boundaries, the park changed ownership, and it was renamed Memaloose State Park.
Today, the park is considered an oasis because of its grassy meadows and tall maples, willows, and cottonwood trees that provide a cooling effect amidst the surrounding Gorge. Campers will enjoy this prime location and want to spend time outdoors enjoying the beautiful scenery.
RV Rentals in Memaloose State Park
Transportation in Memaloose State Park
Memaloose State Park is 85 miles west of Portland, Oregon. Visitors traveling from Portland should anticipate toll roads along the route.
Please note that GPS systems may incorrectly direct you to the park and take you to Memaloose Overlook. Because the turn around option is limited, it could extend your trip up to 30 minutes. To avoid a lengthier journey, do not take the directions which lead you south on Old Highway 30 (the Historic Columbia River Highway).
If you are coming from Portland, head west on I-84 and exit at the Memaloose Rest Area and campground exit. Even though it seems unlikely that a campground would be located behind a rest area, you will drive through the rest area to get to the campground.
Campgrounds and parking in Memaloose State Park
Campsites in Memaloose State Park
The Memaloose Campground is a pet-friendly, seasonally operating campground. These paved, back in, full hookup sites have water, 30 amp electrical service, and sewer. Check for individual site dimensions when reserving your space. The largest site accommodates rigs up to 59 feet. All of the campsites are furnished with tent pads, picnic tables, and fire rings with a grate.
For campers who aren't self-contained, the campground provides toilets, hot showers, and a dump station for its registered guests. Please silence your generators and other noisy equipment between the hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. Campers should note that an active train runs near the park.
Seasonal activities in Memaloose State Park
Memaloose State Park doesn’t have any river access points for guests staying at the park. Campers need to leave the park to find recreational activities along the Columbia River. If you want to try something new and challenging, rent paddleboards or take a stand-up paddleboard yoga lesson on the river. The Dalles, Oregon has more than one paddleboard rental facility. Contact one of the local outfitters for more information on an exciting activity that people of many ages genuinely enjoy.
People who love to camp and not run from one event to another will enjoy Memaloose State Park because the facility is more about the scenic areas and camping than anything else. The kids will love playing around your campsite or playing at the playground that is centrally located inside the campground. Parents, relax by pulling up a chair or sitting on a bench next to the playground and just let the kids do what kids do best: play.
Hiking and biking along the Columbia River are some of the more popular recreational activities in the area. The Historic Columbia River State Trail runs in segments along the Columbia River and offers people varied scenery from tunnels to tree-lined trail. Pieces of the path are multi-use, and other parts are specified for hiking or biking. Visitors can find the trailheads and trail access from many locations along the Columbia River State Trail. Although the route doesn’t run through Memaloose State Park, it is still considered one of the park’s main attractions. The closest access point is The Mark O. Hatfield East Trailhead and Visitor Center.
The Fort Dalles Museum
The city The Dalles earned its name from French-Canadian fur trapper, James Birney when he set up a trading fort along the Columbia River in 1820. The area is also known as a location along the Oregon Trail, as well as a historic military complex. The Fort Dalles Museum, housed in the Surgeon’s Quarters of the old military fort, now serves as one of Oregon’s oldest history museums and is an entertaining and informative place to visit while camping at Memaloose State Park.
Bald Eagle Viewing
In the winter, Bald Eagles gather along the Columbia River Gorge. The ability to witness so many of these majestic birds in one location will be an unforgettable experience. From December until early March, eagles roost at night in the trees along the Columbia River. Park rangers, who track the migrating eagles, have counted up to sixty Bald Eagles along the Dalles Dam at one time. Visit the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center for information on becoming a Bald Eagle birdwatcher.
Memaloose State Park offers campers many different scenic viewpoints of the Columbia River. Some of these views come directly from your camping spot! Since many of the RV sites back up to the river, finding something beautiful to look at is as easy as walking out of your side door! If you want to see more official scenic viewpoints, head to one of the official trailheads and visitor centers along the Columbia River State Trail. Park rangers at any of the locations will offer advice and provide you with the maps you need to spend a day exploring the area for things to see.