For better or for worse, this 12-site campground on the bank of the Little North Fork of the Santiam River is the only official campground in the entire Opal Creek Wilderness. All 12 of the sites are well-maintained and rather spacious. Campsites come with picnic tables and a fire pit, and all are first-come, first-served. This area is very heavily used in the summer season, so it is best to arrive early and mid-week for a spot. There is no potable water here, but the river access is easy from all sites.
Note: Significant crowding, vandalism, and disruptive behavior have resulted in several new regulations. The implementation of these regulations follows an extensive public comment period. Effective May 26, 2017:
- Cars will be turned away once the 90-space parking lot for Three Pools is full, and parking will no longer be allowed outside of the parking lot.
- Significantly, alcohol is now prohibited at the Three Pools Recreation Site.
- Campfires are now prohibited along the route from the Opal Creek Gate Trailhead to Jawbone Flats. Parking will only be allowed within a quarter mile of the trailhead.
- Camping is prohibited for 5 miles up Road 46 along the Breitenbush River 500 feet from the roadway.
- Camping is prohibited at Elk Lake outside of the official Elk Lake Campground.
- Dispersed camping is prohibited for the first 2 miles up French Creek Road and 8 miles on Blowout Creek Road.
- If you are looking for other overnight options in the Opal Creek recreation area, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center rents well-maintained and cozy cabins at Jawbone Flats.