We went to Bates State Park this summer to volunteer to help with the Star Party in August. Bates is located in Eastern Oregon and is a great git-away from all of the lights and noise of civilization. It is located on the site of the former Oregon Lumber Company mill and company town of Bates. It is quite isolated and under utilized so if you like peace and solitude it is the perfect spot to spend a few days. However, it has no hook-ups so prepare for a boon-docking experience in a campground with vault toilets. This is a good place to use your solar camping lights.
There was a new moon and Perseids meteor shower so it promised to be a perfect night sky watching the stars with the local amateur astronomers and their telescopes.
Unfortunately the Star Party was scheduled for August 14, the day after the big John Day fire started and there were already fires burning further east. Because of these fires all but one of the roads leading into Bates were closed. The smoke was thick and we were under alert for evacuation.
In spite of all of that we had a small turnout for the party and those of us that were there enjoyed the talks given by our 2 expert star watchers and archaeologists. Be sure to watch for this event and other fun things to do by checking the Oregon State Park Event Calendar.
We had a picnic and had activities for the visitors.
Bates State Park is a 131-acre state park in Grant County, Oregon near the junction of U.S. 26 and Oregon 7. It opened in 2011 as a state park and is located on the Middle Fork John Day River at 4,070 feet elevation. Bates was once the site of a thriving lumber mill and an adjacent company town set in a lush valley in the Blue Mountains. The mill closed in 1975 and the 400 or so families moved to nearby Prairie City and John Day. The mill buildings and town were taken down or moved and the land sat empty for more than 35 years.
The mill pond, one of the few remaining landmarks from the lumber mill era, is a major feature of the new park. When you visit or stay at the park, look for the interpretive panels that describe Bates life in the early to mid 20th century and the steps taking place now to restore the land and waterways.
There are more than three miles of hiking trails with viewpoints along the trails overlooking the park, the old mill pond and the valley. Visitors often spot beavers and otters near the pond.
The park contains 28 primitive campsites for tents and self-contained RVs. The sites are level and gravel.There are no hook-ups for water, electricity or sewer. In addition, there are six Hiker/Biker camps with electric plug-ins. The hiker/biker sites perch on a little knoll, are close to the restrooms and have trees for shade. Bikers use the area as part of the TransAmerica bicycle trail. The day use area contains locations for picnicking and a picnic shelter.
There are vault toilets and potable water available. Three campsites are accessible to campers with disabilities.
How to get there
The park is located one mile north off US26 Auston Junction to Hwy 7 and is well marked.