Campsites for the August eclipse in Oregon, or other options?
July 9, 2017 4:31 PM   Subscribe

We're getting a late start on our planning for seeing the eclipse out of Portland (I know, I know). We have two young kids and would like to camp somewhere along the route, but we can't find anywhere within a 5-hour drive that has campsites that aren't in the hundreds of dollars, if there are any at all. What can we do?

If it was just us we'd take our chances and head into the backcountry. But getting stuck in parking-lot traffic in the middle of nowhere with two highly disappointed kiddos would be...not good.

I wanted to check if anyone had any up-to-the-minute advice on last-minute campsites available, relatively easy-access backcountry places to try for, or any other travel hacks that might work.

We'd consider (easy-access) backcountry camping, or even setting out at midnight the night before from Portland. Maybe getting a hotel the night before in somewhere like Pendleton and driving south early that morning? Of course the roads will probably be ridiculous.

I'm assuming the main highways east of Salem/Portland/Eugene/Bend (22, 224, 26, 97/197) will all be jammed. What about farther east (19, 395)? How far ahead of time would be have to leave to get out into, say, the back roads east of Madras?
posted by gottabefunky to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing that there will be no way to avoid hideous traffic anywhere in the eclipse zone, at all. There are tens to hundreds of thousands of people planning on heading to eastern Oregon for the eclipse. A quick look at Expedia shows the closest available hotels to Pendleton are in Walla Walla. People from all over the country/world have been planning their trips to this eclipse for over a year - I would not anticipate finding any "secret spots" or anything that haven't already been staked out and claimed. There will be people everywhere.

I'm not trying to be a buzzkill, I promise; I just don't think there's going to be an easy last minute way to see the eclipse in Oregon at this point without a ton of traffic. If you have time, maybe head out to eastern Oregon on Friday and try to find a spot somewhere from there? And honestly, I'd skip Madras and environs entirely - they're expecting 200,000 people, and it's basically Eclipse HQ.

I would say your best bet is to be as backwoods as your kids will tolerate - otherwise, it'll be a wall of people, a flood of traffic, and probably more annoyance than it'd be worth.
posted by pdb at 5:34 PM on July 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I know a place, $200 per campsite, Sat thru Mon. memail me.
posted by at at 6:07 PM on July 9, 2017

Looks like there are still camping tickets at the Solartown portion of Oregon Solarfest for $150...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2017

The website for the City of John Day says that they still have availability for tent and RV campsites ($150/week for tents). The town of Long Creek is also saying the same thing. If those are still available, that area should have excellent eclipse viewing. But expect incredible road congestion (and with all of the visitors, heightened wildfire risks. (And for Long Creek, remember that it is tiny and remote; the one restaurant has about five tables.)

I'd expect 395 south from Pendleton to be clogged and slow, though probably much better than the roads in a more direct line from Portland. It is not a fast road at the best of times, has mostly no cell coverage until you are almost to Mount Vernon, there are deer and elk, and it has plenty of drop-offs with no barriers -- one clueless or unlucky person in an RV could block the road for hours.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2017

Seconding pdb. People have been planning for this eclipse for over a year or more. And, when I spoke to an Oregon state parks representative (back when I was attempting to get camping - never got any) (we live in Portland), she told me they are expecting over a million people. A MILLION people!! Coming to the state for the eclipse, most of them heading east over the Cascades towards the Madras, John Day, etc. areas. She told me that the state is expecting traffic to lock up all the major roadways for that entire weekend/Monday, and told me that if we decide to just try to drive into the path of totality the day of, to make sure we have plenty of food and water in our car in case we have to sit on the road for hours.

Keep in mind that if you just "head on out to the backwoods", you may not even find a place to eventually park. The "backwoods" is going to be slammed. From what I've heard through various state and township sources (I keep calling people hoping to find something like you are - it hasn't been going well), they are going to be policing at a pretty high level, and enforcing no parking areas along the roads. The backcountry will be packed, and there's definitely not going to be room for all those cars. These towns are expecting so many people that they are worrying about having enough food and bathrooms for them all!

Anyway, it seems like the few things left are the few sites charging a hundred or more, so you are stuck at this point. Good luck.

P.S. - you could keep an eye on the weather - there's parts of the coast that will be in the path of totality; however, people are generally avoiding that area because the weather there is so unpredictable and likely to be cloudy, and changes rapidly. However, we might get lucky! You could drive west from Portland if things are looking good for that day...
posted by FireFountain at 9:59 PM on July 9, 2017

One more suggestion: if you go via 395, refuel in Pendleton even if your tank isn't low. There is a gas station in Dale but it is almost always shut; the station in Long Creek is open only sometimes; and the two stations in Mt Vernon are going to be slammed with traffic coming from both north and west. Of the two places I listed, I would go for Long Creek and pack to be self-sufficient with food and water -- it has fewer amenities, but there should also be fewer people (because no one has ever heard of the place and there are no amenities) and it is a shorter drive if you are coming from the north. John Day will get people from both the east and west, and will be a hot, crowded mess.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on July 10, 2017

« Older Travelling around Northern Germany and Denmark   |   Things to do and eat in Atlanta Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.