Spring Basin Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

Just above the John Day River near Clarno, in northeast Oregon, the Spring Basin Wilderness area includes rolling hills and a unique wild landscape. With over 6,400 acres (10 square miles) of land, the Spring Basin Wilderness Area is home to gorgeous views, a unique combination of ecosystems, diverse vegetation, various wildlife and plenty of recreation opportunities. Side canyons, like Hay Bottom Canyon and Eagle Canyon, offer ideal opportunities for solitude for those visiting the area. Four plant species of particular interest make the area appealing to botanists.

The Wilderness Area, which is located about two hours from Bend, is named for a spring that can be found at its center, which provides water throughout the year and creates an oasis among the dry uplands. Multiple eruptions of a chain of volcanoes (called the Clarno volcanoes) that ran across northeastern Oregon resulted in layers of ash, lava, and volcanic mudflow, forming the rock outcroppings in the Spring Basin. A visit to the Wilderness Area allows one to experience a unique combination of ecosystems with biological diversity that cannot be found anywhere else.

When looking for a unique experience where you can engage in a variety of recreation and explore a diverse, natural landscape, the Spring Basin Wilderness Area is an ideal location to visit.

RV Rentals in Spring Basin Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

From Bend, Oregon, take US-97 N for 59.6 miles. Take a slight right onto OR-293 E and proceed for 13.5 miles. Next, turn right onto OR-218 E and continue for 16.4 miles until you reach Clarno Road. Turn right on Clarno Road and continue for 4.1 miles. Clarno Road is a county road that is made of gravel. A BLM kiosk and parking area can be found at the base of Spring Basin.

Parking

A parking area is available at the base of Spring Basin.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is not available to the Spring Basin Wilderness.

Campgrounds and parking in Spring Basin Wilderness

Campsites in Spring Basin Wilderness

First-come first-served

Shelton Wayside Campground

Located about 13 miles southeast of the town of Fossil, the Shelton Wayside Campground is open from mid-April through November 1st. There are 34 sites available within the campground and while RVs and trailers of up to 50 feet can be accommodated, there are no hook-ups at the campground.

Sites are first-come, first-serve and include fire rings as well as picnic tables. Pit toilets are available at the campground. Choose Shelton Wayside Campground and find yourself an excellent home base from which to explore the area.

Service Creek Campground

A small campground on the John Day River, Service Creek Campground offers six single campsites and a boat ramp. Sites are first-come, first-serve and each site has a fire pit and a picnic table. Pit toilets are available and while there is no drinking water, campers that bring a filter along can obtain water from the river.

The campground is primitive and does not offer any hook-ups. The location is excellent for those looking to spend time on the river boating or fishing and visitors will be treated to both beauty and solitude.

Bear Hollow Park Campground

Bear Hollow Park Campground can be found around seven miles southeast of the town of Fossil. With 20 campsites among Ponderosa Pines and fir trees, the campground is open all year. Tents, RVs and trailers can be accommodated at the campground, though hook-ups are not available.

Butte Creek runs the length of the park and provides excellent scenery for campers. Sites offer picnic tables and fire pits and the campground has vault toilets, drinking water, and picnic areas. Sites are first-come, first-served and campers will find a quiet place to relax after a day of outdoor adventure!

Seasonal activities in Spring Basin Wilderness

In-Season

Look for Plants and Wildlife

Visitors to the Spring Basin Wilderness Area are in a perfect place to experience a variety of flora and fauna. There are four species of plants of particular interest in the area, like the yellow-hairy Indian paint brush, the fuzzy tongue penstemon and the Hedgehog cactus.

There are plenty of wildlife that make their home in the Spring Basin Wilderness Area; you may encounter mule deer and bobcats along with a variety of birds like California quail, prairie falcons and mountain bluebirds among others. Whether going for a hike or relaxing for a picnic, keep your eyes open!

Take a Hike

A great way to explore the Spring Basin Wilderness Area is to go for a hike. Upon parking at a BLM kiosk, you can hike to a defined canyon where you will come across a primitive path into the Wilderness Area. Follow the trail for 1.1 miles to the top of Spring Basin Canyon. The elevation gain is 800 feet from the parking area. From there you can enjoy beautiful views and depending on vegetation, you may encounter some primitive roads that can be explored.

For those seeking a more challenging experience, upon reaching the top of the trail, look for a two-track road that will take you along a number of hills until reaching the north shoulder of Horse Mountain. After hiking to the top, you can return back the same way.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Created in 1990, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a little more than two hours away from the Spring Basin Wilderness Area. Located in the Deschutes National Forest, the monument offers the chance to take in Central Oregon’s Lava Lands.

The Monument includes more than 54,000 acres (84.4 square miles) with lakes, lava flows, and unique geology. Paulina Peak, which at 7,985 feet is the Monument’s highest point, delivers amazing views of the Cascades and Newberry Caldera.

Off-Season

Explore Redmond Caves

Less than two hours from the Spring Basin Wilderness Area are the Redmond Caves, six lava tubes that are located in Deschutes County, Oregon. Found in the city of Redmond, the caves are looked after by the city and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with five of them located in the Redmond Caves Park. Spend time underground exploring these caves, which were formed by volcanic flow of molten lava as you learn about geology, wildlife and how the caves were used in the past.

Bike the Madras Mountain Scenic Byway

A little more than an hour from the Spring Basin Wilderness is the town of Madras and the Madras Mountain Scenic Bikeway. With a distance of 29 miles, the route takes riders through farm fields and along the Lake Billy Chinook canyon rim.

View peaks and buttes, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Washington among other mountains during the ride; as the winters in the area are typically mild, one can enjoy this ride year-round.

Check Out the Erickson Aircraft Collection

Another unique activity in Madras is the Erickson Aircraft Collection. Visitors can see a collection of twenty vintage aircraft that Jack Erickson began collecting in 1983. Within the collection are more than 20 rare aircraft, many of which are still in the condition to fly.

For example, you can take a look at the P38 Lightning, the P-51 Mustang, and the B-17 Flying Fortress. Visitors can check out the Erickson Aircraft Collection six days a week (it is closed on Mondays). The Collection is also closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.