Service Creek Campground is a great resource for boaters making the trek out to Central Oregon for a float down the beautiful John Day River. The section from Service Creek to Clarno is 47 miles long and is commonly completed in three days, but the dearth of established campsites in the final 11 miles can make planning your distances a little tricky. The Service Creek Campground offers boaters an easy opportunity to get an early start on day one, which can ease the burden of the miles that must be covered later in the trip. In addition, boaters can easily set up their shuttle (and grab breakfast or last-minute supplies) at the Service Creek Stage Stop just up Highway 19 and leave vehicles to be shuttled in the shared boat ramp and campground parking area.
The campground itself is quite straightforward. The exact number of sites is negotiable, and all are walk-in and first-come, first-served. Picnic tables and fire rings are dispersed throughout the area, but the spaces available for tents far exceed these options. Vault toilets are available, but there is no potable water here. Water in the John Day River is full of agricultural runoff, so filtering isn’t an option; be sure to bring everything you’ll need for your trip. A large canyon wall juts up across the river from the boat ramp, which is impressive, but which also acts as a sounding board that bounces sounds from the put-in back toward the campground. Keep this in mind as you plan your arrival: Boaters who arrive late at night and plan to rig for an early morning departure will almost certainly be disturbing people in the campground. Please be respectful and avoid this scenario.