Wallowa Lake in Oregon is tucked away between three majestic mountains, but offers camping options of all kinds! This incredible lake was formed by glaciers and offers spectacular hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, and of course camping. You might even indulge the rare sport of searching for the elusive Big Willy of Wallowa Lake!
What is Wallowa Lake known for?
Located in the Northeast of Oregon not far from the borders of Washington State and Idaho is a secluded natural spectacle called Wallowa Lake. It’s best known for sport fishing and holds 8 state records for the largest Kokanee fish caught. There is also a bounty of trout that is on hand as well. It’s also a great place to catch-up on bird watching with scores of local and migrating species that pass through the state.
Aside from the natural beauty of Wallowa Lake and the impressive 9,000-foot tall mountains, the natural beauty is stunning. Nighttime views of the stars are equally impressive with an unhindered glimpse into the solar heavens. Very popular daytime activities include horseback riding tours, wilderness trails, and classic lake canoeing. Wallowa Lake camping at this off-the-path retreat is certainly one for your bucket list.
According to ancient American Indian legend, the lake is home to a rather large snake-like monster that lives there. It was witnessed by the Nez Perce and Blackfeet people who gathered at a wedding ceremony. It was a celebration wedding that joined both the clans together that ended in tragedy. The serpent appeared and ate the new bride and groom as they canoed to the center of the lake. This quickly ended the new peace treaty and a classic lake monster story was born.
What is the best time of year to go?
There is no bad time to visit Wallowa Lake since every season offers something different. Spring and summer are the best times for excellent weather, but you’ll have the occasional thunderstorm sweeping through. Fall is a wonderful time to see the extravagant colors sweeping into this valley. Yet winter is a magical time when you’ll have a chance to see Jack Frost’s touch freeze over this area.
In terms of camping, you can always count on the best times in early spring through late fall. It great for those who enjoy the total ‘roughing-it’ experience, however, they do have cabins and yurts available also.
What campsites are there?
You’ll find several campgrounds outside the Wallowa Lake that are independently owned. The Wallowa State park owns and operates its facilities around the lake, providing many options for camping. All of these links included can give you further information on booking and reserving spaces by phone.
Luckily you will find over 50 designated sites throughout the Wallowa Lake State Park. Some of them will include sites for tents and others will have cabins or yurts. Those who prefer RV camping will have special RV park campgrounds as well. They’ve made about every special provision for anyone who wants to camp within this park. This makes it possible to live as close to nature, with or without modern conveniences.
Since it is a State Park you do need to follow their strict guidelines for safety. There are many wild animals within the park and fire danger rules must be observed at all times.
Those who want a bit of comfort in a small cabin can select from 4 locations inside the park. These basic cabins have no electricity so you need to bring essentials for lighting and cooking. Of course, you need to bring your food supplies to eat as well. These cabins are only available at certain times of the year so booking one needs to be in advance. Each cabin station will differ slightly, so certain supplies will need to be brought along with you.
For those who are into sport fishing, family reunions, and large groups, the State Park offers 10 different locations. These are sites that have been dedicated and laid out for larger groups. Even for special groups that are out for hunting season, they have just the right location that can be reserved. This can be especially attractive for team building adventures for corporate companies and businesses.
Here is another great alternative for those who like camping as a single or couple. Just bring a small tent and fire starter and camp just about anywhere you feel like. These are places that have no access to toilets or showers, so it’s camping in the wild. The park asks those who like dispersed camping to leave the area exactly as it was before you arrive. This helps to maintain the nature and beauty of the park itself.
If you’re into the All-American RV experience there are over 30 sites that cater to Wallowa Lake camping here. There several specially designed RV camps that allow larger vehicles with towing rigs, boats, and extra-long RVs. For those who want full hook-ups for electricity, water, and toilet pump stations, this is found at Union Creek campground. Otherwise, the rest of the sites are left to what you bring with you.
Things to know before going?
This is still considered wild country so there are obvious things you should remember. Your safety is one of them so bringing a map of the area is a must. Mobile phones will likely not work unless they’ve added cell towers. That’s very unlikely since it’s in the high mountains. Park rangers communicate using two-way radios or long-distance walkie-talkies. You should bring a decent device that can signal for help if you are in trouble using one of these two.
Weather can often change very quickly so be sure you bring the appropriate kind of clothing and rain gear. This location does have very unexpected rain and thunderstorms so expect the unexpected as this is raw nature. Wild animals especially should be left undisturbed and not approached. Many wild elk live in this area and are not the kind of animal you want to make angry.
Black bears do live among the park especially up toward Snake River but not limited to other areas. They are unpredictable so it’s best to keep a good distance if you encounter one. The park will supply information on how to store food and how to protect yourself from any kind of animal attack. The more you know about the local animals beforehand will be important to your overall safety.
Should you go camping there?
It’s absolutely a grand place to visit to get a real sense of nature that has remained untouched by centuries. You’ll see the land as it was when Native American Indians lived there likewise. It’s also one of the few places in America where it is truly a dark spot on the map. Nighttime star viewing gives you the best chance to ever see stars as they have never been seen. Even watch meteorites and satellites pass overhead in crystal clear view!
Unlike many lakes in America, the Wallowa Lake is a Mecca for monster watchers looking for Big Willy. If they ever do have a chance to see this timid beast, it would make some serious headlines. But for some reason, this Cryptid likes to remain hidden in the depths of the lake. But the story of your experience sighting this beast might make your online friends envious. Whatever the reason happens to be Wallowa Lake camping is well-worth visiting.
Our final words
Getting out of the city by the call of nature is one way to describe this amazing lake. Much like Yosemite Valley, it was naturally carved out by glaciers. It made the full effect of outdoor camping feel like a normal thing. Why wouldn’t you take a week or two to experience a feeling that is filled with the freshest air and the cleanest lake water in the nation!
See you there!