Located along Highway 20 just across the highway from the Rooster Rock Trailhead, Fernview Group Campground is an inconspicuous facility that has been transitioned from a single-site campground into a group facility. The South Santiam flows gently and subtly below the campground and the highway, and this short stretch has two good swimming holes that are well worth visiting, whether you are camping or just returning from a hike or ride on a hot day.
The upstream pool is adjacent to the campground and is directly accessible from there via a stairway down to the riverbank. It sits below a short constriction that is harmless enough at low flows; it’s easy to imagine this being a legitimate hazard when flows are high, however. A gigantic boulder sits just downstream from the rapid and is a natural spot to lay out, and a small gravel beach is another good option. Note that the pool here is relatively shallow, so jumping from the rock is definitely not a good idea.
Just downstream from the bridge is another small pool that may be a better fit if you are traveling with little ones and don’t want to worry about depth or current as much. The entry into the water is a little more gradual here, the pool is calmer, and the bank a little more generous. Also, this bank is directly across from the small falls created by Boulder Creek as it rushes to meet the South Santiam River. It’s a very intimate and picturesque spot to enjoy a plunge.
This stretch of river is deep in a valley and is surrounded by a lush, healthy forest. It receives little direct sunlight; that said, when the heat of the summer sets in, this type of shade and mellow river flow is sublime. It is a fragile area, too, and vulnerable to misuse. Fortunately, Fernview has a day use area attached to the campground where visitors can park, use the vault toilets, and dispose of garbage, but even these facilities can close if users disrespect the area. Please do your part to ensure access remains viable by using established pathways whenever possible, packing out what you bring in, and grabbing other people’s garbage when you can.