When plotting a tour of the northwest it is nearly always best to chart the chosen campgrounds along the travel route, simply because establishing a basecamp even for a short time will lead to many local adventures that are usually not featured in tourism brochures. Using key search words, like "state park, campground or recreation area" will turn up plenty of results, but depending on the mapping system search engine, destinations that do not fit these browser descriptions may not be revealed.
In the American east coast and midwest regions, a wayside area usually refers to a blacktop patch adjacent to a highway where sleepy truckers park or a spot along a turnpike toll road where a long distance traveler can stretch the legs. In the Pacific Northwest, a wayside area takes one an entirely new meaning, because these roadside access areas often are primary attractions that offer all sorts of outdoor activities. For this reason, using the "wayside area" search words when planning a long trip in the northwest will present opportunities to make the vacation time all the more fulfilling!
In Oregon, the State Park system manages several unique wayside areas that are often overlooked by mainstream tourists. People in a hurry tend to blow right on by these lesser known nooks, without stopping to check out the details. Some even assume the roadside areas are nothing more than places where the local folk go to party on the weekends, but this could not be further from the truth. The Oregon wayside areas are managed like miniature state parks and some even offer nice campgrounds with plenty of fun activities for the entire family.
One such roadside destination can be found along the banks of the Grande Ronde River, which runs through the heart of the majestic Blue Mountains of central Oregon. The Red Bridge State Wayside is the one to look for along State Road 244 and it pays to not bat an eye or this prime opportunity may easily be passed by! This cozy little spot is surrounded by the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, so this deep woods environment is as picturesque as can be. Minam State Park is nearby, which is managed by the same agency and this unique riverside camping spot was also featured in a previously published article. As can be guessed, the highest percentage of outdoor activities in this region have to do with the Grande Ronde River and the Red Bridge State Wayside certainly offers a front row seat!
Kayaking, canoeing and plain old floating downstream on an inner tube is a great way to cool off during the hot summer season. The Grande Ronde offers excellent fly fishing and filling the creel with food for dinner is possible to do. The tall trees along the river banks offer plenty of shade for a comfortable afternoon picnic and there actually are horseshoe tossing pits on site for those who enjoy this traditional wild west game. Gourmet edible wild mushrooms can be collected in the hills and heirloom old growth apple trees can also be found in the forest, so even the dessert course is covered. Best of all, there are a few riverside campsites with fire pits and facilities to be found that cater to both tent campers and RV enthusiasts. For these reasons, the Red Bridge State Wayside is well worth keeping in mind when planning a tour of the Oregon Blue Mountains!
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