New camping at Oxbow

Oxbow Regional Park, on the Sandy River outside of Troutdale, is one of my favorite places to camp near Portland. Not only is it a really sweet ride–you can take the car-free Springwater Corridor most of the way from Portland, and it’s only about 30 miles–but it’s also just a lovely place to be: on the river, nestled amidst old-growth forest, peaceful, quiet.

oxbow(Oxbow last summer–with a dear friend who at the time never biked and yet still made it out there:)

Of course, on weekends in the summer it can be quite popular, which used to make it kind of risky to bike all the way out there hoping to find a campsite. But this year, they’re introducing online reservations, so you can be sure to have a spot waiting for you.

Though I feel like I should be excited about that, I actually have some mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s cool to be assured of a spot. On the other, it sort of gets rid of the impromptu-camping-trip feeling that I associate with someplace so close as Oxbow. Though any unreserved sites will still be first-come-first-served, I can easily imagine a system developing whereby if you haven’t planned your camping trip weeks in advance, you simply can’t camp there anymore.

The other thing that colors my thoughts a bit is my disappointment that their reconception of how to manage their campsites didn’t include any thoughts about saving one or two spots as hiker/biker sites. Metro, the governing body that manages Oxbow, is the place that brings you the Bike There! map, after all, as well as the urban growth boundary and all sorts of things that make Portland dense, livable and bike-friendly. It seems natural to me that they would try to incentivize people biking instead of driving to Oxbow.

When I emailed (the address they provide on their website) to ask about it, I got a reply from Dan Kromer, the Metro Parks and Visitor Services Manager, saying “We have discussed devoting specific campsites to bike camping only but decided to hold off on that idea until we see how the new reservation system is working.” Which makes me think that they could use some more convincing that bike sites are a valuable thing to include.

So if you think that a biker site, like the ones many state parks have, would be a nice thing for Oxbow, it might be worth sending an email. On their end it seems like a good idea, too. Not only can you fit more people into one space without having to dedicate half the area to parking, it would actually speak to the values of sustainability that they purport to espouse.


  1. I feel your pain, as I don’t know why Metro hasn’t added a hiker/biker spot (or two) to Oxbow. And in the same vein, Portland Water Bureau re-opened camping to Dodge Park just a few miles up the Sandy from Oxbow. And no hiker-biker there either.

    But to be honest, to have a choice between exactly like it was (first come, first served) and what it is now (reservable), I’ll take the latter. At least you have SOME ability to guarantee you’ll have a spot. This is what has always scared me off of Oxbow in the past, a park that I still haven’t camped at.

    Still, we should definitely write letters to Metro and Portland Water Bureau about hiker/biker camping.

    And a radical suggestion if you want a better chance of getting an unreserved spot at either: Go mid-week! I should be leading another after-work mid-week camping trip for Pedalpalooza this year too.

    • I definitely emailed Metro, though I hadn’t thought about the Water Bureau. Perhaps because I haven’t been to Dodge Park yet:) But yeah. Add your voice too!:)

      And hey, I’m sure you’ve got this covered, but do let me know if you ever want help leading any camping trips. I have a pretty random schedule and am ever so much into helping people get camping on their bicicletas! :)

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