At the foot of Dixie Butte and along the Middle Fork of the John Day River lies one of Oregon's newest state parks. Bates State Park was once the site of a wood mill, but once the mill closed in the 1970s the site remained vacant until it was purchased by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation from the county in 2008. The park is comprised of 131 acres and features a pond and a few miles of hiking trails.
A well-established day use area is frequently used by families on weekends. In comparison, the campground that covers most of the land at the entrance to the park is very open and infrequently used. There is no privacy between each campsite, and each is setup for tents or RVs without hookups. A slew of sprinklers feed the sapling trees that were planted when the park was opened to provide some separation between sites, but it will be many years before they grow to a size that is sufficient for their intended purpose. A hiker/biker camp offers six more shaded campsites that sit on a hill above the larger campground. All sites are first-come, first-served, and the campground is open from May through October.
The world's largest living organism is just a few miles away from Bates State Park, off Highway 26 before reaching Dixie Campground. It's a mushroom, called the Honey Mushroom or Humongous Fungus. Unlike beneficial fungi, this fungus, the Armillaria ostoyae, is a parasite that kills and decomposes conifer tree roots. There are five Armillaria growing in the immediate vicinity, the largest of which was measured to be 2,385 acres in 2008. For more information on the parasitic fungus and where to find it, watch the video by Oregon Field Guide below and check out this publication by the U.S. Forest Service.