Monday, August 5, 2013

Free camping on Washington's Columbia River

Where you gonna find views like this -- and free camping? (R&T DeMaris photo)

Looking for a free place to camp, maybe drop a line in the water for a bass, perhaps even a passing salmon? Avery Park, on one of Washington's loneliest highways may be your fix.

West of Wishram on Washington Highway 14, Avery Park is technically a "Treaty Fishing Access Site," which means during the Native American salmon harvest season, the place is closed off to all but tribal members. But any other time of the year, everyone can take advantage of this free river campground.

It's nothing "special" in terms of access to utilities. You'll find a vault toilet and garbage dumpster, but not much more to complicate your life. "Sites," are basically where you pull your rig off and park along side the river shore. At the east end of the campground is a fine boat launch ramp, but shore fishing works fine here.

Summers are generally mild, and trees provide shade if you need it. Summer weekends can be busy, but if you pull in by early afternoon on Friday you'll probably be able to secure yourself a site. Tugs pushing barges up and down the Columbia provide a foreground to great views of Mount Hood. Be prepared, by day nearby rail traffic will run by, but happily decreases substantially by night.

Jump off Interstate 84 on the Oregon side and cross the bridge in front of the Dalles Dam. Head north and follow the road to Highway 14, head east a little over nine miles and watch for the sign.

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