Pets allowed
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The John Day River snakes through Oregon's eastern plateau, cutting a deep and rugged gorge as it flows northwest toward the Columbia River. At 252 miles long, the John Day is the Pacific Northwest's longest free-flowing river; it is also home to the nation's longest stretch of Wild and Scenic river, a total of 148 miles of federally protected water. The absence of dams and the presence of federal protections helps to create one of the region's healthiest habitats for runs of summer Chinook salmon,

Formerly known as J.S. Burres State Park, Cottonwood Canyon State Park now encompasses roughly 8,000 acres of this 1,250-foot deep canyon corridor, making it Oregon’s second largest state park after Silver Falls State Park (9,064 acres). In 2008, Western Rivers Conservancy raised donations to acquire property along both sides of the river, including the Murtha Family Ranch and their Bureau of Land Management grazing lease. Western Rivers Conservancy then sold the preserve to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for $7.86 million, the same price they had paid the Murthas for the land. Oregon Parks and Recreation then reintroduced the land back to the public in 2013.

Currently the park is an ideal spot for fly fishing and initiating or wrapping up a river trip, and it also features over 10 miles of hiking trails (including the Pinnacles Trail) and equestrian trails, a 29-site campground, and a day use area with picnic shelters, restrooms, and the old Murtha Ranch barn. In 2018, four reservable rustic cabins opened, two of which (Bighorn and Rattlesnake) are pet friendly.

When you visit, be sure to bundle up during the winter months and bring plenty of water and sun screen during the summer, as the exposed canyon is host to extremely cold winter nights and intensely hot, shade-less summer days. Though this section of the John Day River gorge deserves an enchanting name like “Cottonwood Canyon,” and there are indeed cottonwoods, you won't find any cottonwood trees of a respectable size to provide relief from the canyon’s intense heat.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


16 miles of John Day River gorge. Chinook salmon fishing. Hiking trails.


Little to no shade. Heat during summer months.


Flushing toilets
Boat ramp(s)
Potable water
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Horseback riding
Bird watching
Big Game Watching



"Cottonwood Canyon State Park now encompasses roughly 16 miles of this 1,250-foot deep canyon corridor ..."

Incorrect. 8 miles.

"In 2008, Western Rivers Conservancy raised donations to acquire property along both sides of the river ... then ceded management of the preserve to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department ..."

"Ceded" implies they gave it to the state, and that's incorrect. They sold the property to the state, probably for more than they spent to acquire it.
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