It's hard to sum up all of the features at Cove Palisades State Park. With 72 miles of shoreline and majestic steep canyon walls protecting the water from winds, Lake Billy Chinook is the undeniable lake boating paradise of Oregon. Graced by the mild, sunny, Central Oregon weather, and a variety of day use areas, campgrounds, and boat launches, this is going to be a seriously good time.
Two different campgrounds give you an opportunity to experience the park in different ways. The Crooked River Campground has 85 RV sites in a wide and level park-like setting close to the Cove Palisades Resort and Marina. The Deschutes Campground blends 175 tent and RV sites more naturally into the desert terrain, with boulders and interesting vegetation creating privacy. Both the campgrounds are a short hike to their own Day Use Area with boat launches and swimming.
Lake Billy Chinook is the main attraction, and all three Day Use Areas are well designed to handle busy boat and trailer traffic in the summer. There are large staging areas, multi-lane launches, and designated trailer storage lots. The State Park operates the Cove Palisades Resort, and offers every variety of water toy from simple paddle sports and float tubes, to adventurous wake boats, jet skis and even full-featured houseboats.
The Park boasts an abundant staff of Rangers for a variety of programs and entertainment at each of the two campground amphitheaters. They are also noted by visitors as a welcome presence maintaining order and safe enjoyment of the campgrounds and the lake.
There are abundant hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the area, and many visitors enjoy the park outside of the noisy boating season for bird watching, photography, fishing, and hiking.
RV Rentals in The Cove Palisades State Park
Transportation in The Cove Palisades State Park
The Crooked River Campground is the best choice for larger RVs and trailers. Make sure that you plan ahead for boat registration, camping reservations, and fishing licences, as the park is well staffed and rules are enforced. Nearby Madras has great options for dining, local beer, and supplies for the lake.
Campgrounds and parking in The Cove Palisades State Park
Campsites in The Cove Palisades State Park
Crooked River Campground
There are two ways to camp in the park. This camp offers 85 full hook-up RV sites in a level, park-like setting with lots of grass and a few trees. Crooked River is open year-round and offers three large restrooms with hot showers, picnic tables, fire rings, and multi-lane dump stations. The amphitheater hosts activities all summer long, and large boat launches and a marina are minutes away at the Crooked River Day Use Area and Cove Palisades Resort. This camp is also right by a small store and rental shop outside of the park.
Created on hilly terrain, this camp feels more like high desert camping with scattered boulders, and gnarled native vegetation. Deschutes, with 175 sites for RVs and tents, is only open May-Sept and is a bit farther from the marina. There is a nearby day use area, with boat launch and swimming area though. There are three full restrooms with hot showers, a dump station, playground, picnic tables and fire rings, and an amphitheater which hosts activities all summer. This is also the trail head for the Tam-a-lau Trail.
Seasonal activities in The Cove Palisades State Park
The Cove Palisades Resort and Marina has a variety of options for big adventures on the water. From fishing boats and wake boats to large pontoon boats and even full houseboats, there's something here that you'll enjoy. There is limited availability, so be sure to reserve well in advance, particularly during Summer weekends and major holidays.
There are three separate swim areas in the State Park, one at each Day Use Area. The water does warm up perfectly when summer temps take off. You'll see a variety of toys in use, so feel free to arrive with your own tubes, paddle boards, and floats. If you show up empty handed, all of the goods are for sale and rent at the Cove Palisades Resort and nearby shops at Culver and Madras. Be very careful swimming outside of the designated areas, as many boats and jet skis will be zipping around.
Evening Nature Presentations
This well-staffed park keeps each of the campground amphitheaters busy all summer long. Between the Jr. Ranger programs, guided hikes, scavenger-hunts, and classes for nature crafts and wildlife identification, there's always something happening. Check with the Park as schedules and topics vary each year depending on who is on staff that season. This is a favorite of families with kids, because most of the activities are geared toward all-ages participation.
The six mile Tam-a-lau Loop Trail climbs to the top of one of the characteristic lava plateaus surrounded by water. The first mile is moderate to difficult getting to the top, but then relatively flat for the four miles around the plateau. The views are stunning from above, with sheer drops to the water below. This hike is not recommended for summer because of how much the boat noise echos through the canyon and the serious heat.
A large variety of birds, animals, reptiles, and fish make their home at Cove Palisades. There are special events through the year such as the Spring Eagle Watch, Ranger Walks in summer, and stargazing events in the dark Central-Oregon skies. The Deschutes Campground features a self guided loop trail which leads visitors through eight interpretive stations, and exhibits about native plant or animal life. The summer noise is a bit much for some, so the off-season in best for wildlife.
Fishing Lake Billy Chinook
Lake Billy Chinook is well-stocked to keep anglers smiling. Note that the lake is partially on Reservation land, and a separate permit is required to fish in those sections. There are lots of opportunities with or without a boat because of the three Day Use Areas, and the large Marina dock. The lake is well-known for its resident bull trout, but sockeye salmon, bass, and other species of trout are productive here as well. Licences and ODFW guides are available at the Cove Palisades Marina in the Park.