boondocking, campground, Crack In the Ground, Oregon, Paisley Caves, Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge
I had heard that camping was allowed in this wildlife refuge. Since I was going to be in the area; south of Bend, Oregon, I put it on my itinerary. Yes, there were picnic tables and pit toilets (no water) like a camping site, but the place had a boondocking feeling. There are no defined camping sites, you just set up in one of three designated areas and make it your home. It couldn’t have been better. The two nights I stayed there I was the only one camping in the refuge. It was a treat to step out of my trailer in the morning and walk through the refuge viewing the birds with a cup of coffee in my hand.
While in the area I went exploring. To the north of the area I explore Fort Rock and the Crack In The Ground. Fort Rock is a remnant of a volcanic crater that was in the middle of an ancient lake. If you have a geology type imagination you can imagine the volcano and then the lake shoreline lapping at the rock eroding the stone. The Crack In The Ground is hard to describe. It truly is a crack in the ground that is about 2 miles long, 70 feet deep that you can walk through. It is rather in the middle of nowhere but if you like geology you will love the crack. I only have two poor photos to attempt to show the crack.
To the south are the Paisley Caves immediately north of Paisley. The Paisley Caves are a world-class heritage site where the earliest directly-dated human remains (DNA) yet discovered in the Western Hemisphere were found in human coprolites dated to 14,280 years ago. There are no signs locating the site or explaining it. The excavations done by the university have been backfilled. But with imagination… I found the site by discovering a geocache located at the site. You drive to the site by turning east off of SR 31 at the rodeo stands a mile or so north of Paisley. Then use your GPS to drive to the caves. There are a number of roads in the area that all seem to connect.
N42° 45.696’ W120° 33.227’
- For a $5 parking permit you can camp in the wildlife area. Buy your parking permit at the store immediately north of the refuge.
- Look for signs to the wildlife headquarters. From there you will find a map about where camping is allowed.
- I heard that the refuge is getting more popular during the spring bird migration, but not overwhelming so.
- If wanting peace and quiet during your stay, check to see when the hunting season is. Hunting is allowing within the refuge.
- UPDDATE 2022: You now pay online. $10/night or $30/year.