Only in Oregon: Old Growth Forest Camping Beside A Wild & Scenic River


Only in Oregon: Old Growth Forest Camping Beside A Wild & Scenic River

Kiahanie Campground Sign, Willamette National Forest, OregonNestled beside a designated Wild & Scenic River is lightly used Kiahanie Campground in the Willamette National Forest.  For just $10 a night, tent and RV campers enjoy the quiet beauty of an old growth forest and the gentle sound of the crystal clear river lulling them to sleep at night.

The campground is located about 20 miles northeast of Oakridge just off the Aufderheide Scenic Drive (Highway 19).  It's at an elevation of 2,200 feet with 19 camp sites, most of which lie beside the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.

The river is one of forty Wild and Scenic Rivers designated in Oregon.  In 1988, the Pacific Rivers Council (then Oregon Rivers Council) took the unprecedented step of crafting the nation’s first large federal river protection act, the landmark Oregon Omnibus National Wild and Scenic River Act of 1988. This Act remains the largest river protection legislation in the nation’s history. It added 40 outstanding rivers totaling 1500 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic River system in Oregon.

Chair Beside North Fork Middle Fork Wilamette RiverI didn't know the history about the river's special designation while camping there.  I just appreciated the cleanliness of the water, the whispering sound of it flowing by, and the wildlife I watched while sitting beside it.  At dusk, bats emerged to fly overhead capturing insects for their dinner.Water Pump at Kiahanie Campgound

Each of the 19 sites has a large picnic table and fire ring.  Two hand pumps provide drinking water and there are well kept pit toilets.  Despite it being Labor Day weekend, this beautiful campground was barely half full when we camped there.  Fly fishing is permitted in season for native trout.

Kiahanie Campground is just one peaceful stop along the Aufderheide Scenic Drive from Westfir off Highway 58 to Blue River on Highway 126.  The Middle Fork and Blue River Ranger Stations have a free CD you can play while you drive that opens your eyes to the many points of interest you'll see along the way.  Return the CD when you finish your trip.

The drive is also popular with motorcyclists and bicyclists.  A nice video shows some of the highlights from a bicyclist's point of view.  The seasonal road is closed from October to April, due to heavy snows.  Contact the Willamette National Forest Middle Fork Ranger Station for current road conditions and closures.  This is a beautiful drive any time, but especially in the fall when the leaves turn color and drop gently to the ground.

As for Kaihanie Campground, and the other Willamette National Forest campgrounds, I'll be seeing you again next camping season!

Tent Camping



Rick Obst is an Arizona native who moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2005 and fell in love with the verdant Pacific Northwest.  He enjoys photography and discovering the many people, places, and events that make this part of the world so special.

To learn more about Eugene, Lane County, and western Oregon, visit 365 and More Things to do in Lane County, Oregon on Facebook.  You'll see hundreds of pictures and links to discover the beauty and attractions of this special area.


Comment balloon 4 commentsRetired from ActiveRain • September 07 2013 04:42PM


I love this blog.  You make me long for Oregon in the summer.  I love your links and your video.  Thanks!

Posted by Elise Harron, Rural Vacant Land and Development Specialist (Dirt Road Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Elisa: I am an Arizona native who traded the Sonoran desert for the Northwest.  I have traveled widely in AZ and have seen and explored most of the state.  My heart belongs to Oregon now (especially when Phoenix is 110 degrees!).  I still wouldn't mind being in AZ in December or January though. :)

Posted by Retired from ActiveRain about 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing Kiahanie Campground. This is another location that is going on my to do list for vacation spots.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) about 7 years ago

Kiahanie Campground Site #10, Willamette National Forest

Sarah & Lester:

 Please don't share this place with anyone. :)  I'm already getting grief from locals on my Facebook page about revealing this campground to others.

If you do go, come back to this post and let me know if you enjoyed camping there as much as I did.


Posted by Retired from ActiveRain about 7 years ago