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Painted Hills

Road Trip from Columbia River to Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Kite Surfing at Portland of Arlington
Written by Oregon Media

Road Trip from Columbia River to Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Drop from the Columbia River into the heart of Gilliam County, home to historic Condon and Oregon’s newest state park, Cottonwood Canyon

The town of Arlington is on the Columbia River and Interstate 84, easily accessed from east or west, Portland or Boise. Start your day at Earl Snell Memorial Park on the river in Arlington, where a small beach offers swimming access, picnicking spots, and opportunities for waterfront play and relaxation. Windsurfers will want to head to the Port of Arlington to set sail. Standup paddleboarders can rent a board from Arlington Hardware. Golfers, don’t miss the nine-hole course at China Creek Golf Course, which boasts a stunning view of the Columbia River.

Fireworks and Hula Hoops

Turn south at Arlington and climb Highway 19 for 3,000 feet to the heart of the Columbia Plateau and historic Condon. Condon is a small town with a big heart, demonstrated each year at their booming Fourth of July parade and celebration. The town turns out for the parade, hula hoop contest, sidewalk chalk art contest, and fireworks display.

The Allure of Yesteryear

Historic Downtown Condon is seated high atop the Columbia Plateau, serving as the commercial and cultural heart of Gilliam County. Stroll historic main street along Oregon Route 19 and browse through popular titles at Powell’s Books. Country Flowers serves more than the name suggests, integrating a boutique and old-fashioned soda fountain. The Condon Motel has 18 comfortable and cozy rooms with all the amenities and even a welcome mat for your pet. The Historic Hotel Condon is a modern stay with a glimpse of the past.

  Don’t miss a stop at Gilliam County Historical Museum, which is more like a real-life trip back in time than a visit to a historical society. Visit an authentic one-room schoolhouse and a brothel-turned-barbershop, each over a century old. The Museum also showcases famous past residents and Nobel Prize winners Linus Pauling and William Murphy, who are celebrated on Nobel Laureate Day each February.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park The Park with the Mostest

Cruise Highway 206 to Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Oregon’s second-largest state park is also one of its newest. Comprising some 8,000 acres straddling the lower John Day River canyon, Cottonwood is rugged and vast from vertical cliffs to deep side canyons and arid, rocky ranges. Boasting abundant wildlife, this a destination for hunters, anglers, horseback riders, campers and wildlife enthusiasts. Also in the park is the 1,500 square foot Experience Center, which serves as a classroom for outdoor education as well as an event space. The Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute is a weeklong residential field study course for high school students held onsite each summer.

With so much open space for exploring, stargazing, and contemplating the elemental forces that carved this unique landscape, Cottonwood Canyon is a destination not to miss as well as a perfect place to end your John Day River Territory tour.