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Painted Hills

Sherman County: Rolling Hills and a Sportsman’s Paradise

Written by Oregon Media

Sherman County: Rolling Hills and a Sportsman’s Paradise

Cottonwood Canyon in Sherman County Perched on the high Columbia Plateau between the Deschutes and John Day rivers, Sherman County is a place of abundant sky and few residents. Settled by ranchers and farmers in the late 19th century, today Sherman County is home to miles of rolling wheat fields that paint picturesque vistas across 360 degrees of horizon. Well maintained, but lightly trafficked, roads make this a cyclists’ paradise. This is also the starting point for the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway, where you can access world-class fishing on the nearby rivers and thousands of acres of public land.

Explore Cottonwood Canyon State Park and experience center

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 boasts abundant wildlife, making this a destination for hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts. Opened in 2018 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 more than 15,000 artifacts, centuries of history are represented at this museum. Topics range from Native Americans to Oregon Trail pioneers and dry-land wheat farming to conservation. Military units and patriotic efforts are also paid homage.

world class fishing

This beautiful landscape offers many waterways perfect to get out and fish. From bass fishing on the John Day River to steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River to salmon on the Columbia River, there are plenty of reasons to take advantage of world class fishing in Sherman County.

cycle the Wasco Loop

The Wasco Loop offers the best of all cycling disciplines, combining gravel roads, pavement and trails. The 60-mile ride kisses the rim of the Deschutes River above Macks Canyon, where railroad barons once waged an epic construction competition to be the first line to Bend and its wealth of timber. The ride then heads east toward McDonald Ferry, where pioneers on the Oregon Trail forded the John Day River. In between, you’ll find the historic town of Wasco. This is the center of Oregon’s wind energy boom, where turbine blades rotating on nearby hills form a dramatic backdrop to the rolling wheat fields.