upper clackamas river


The laundry’s done and the tent and other equipment have been put away, but I can’t stop wishing we were still camping on the upper Clackamas River. We have a favorite campground, and there’s only one sweet campsite right on the river. For one long weekend for the past three years it’s had our name on it.

It was hot, so we took our lawn chairs into the river and put our feet in the cold water. We found crawdads and built rock cairns. The first beers of the day were popped open by 9:30am. The breeze smelled of fir trees and camp smoke and we woke and fell asleep to the sound of the river.

To save that big, shady spot, it means being ready to click [RESERVE] online at exactly 12:01am six months prior to the weekend you want to go. It’s worth staying up late to get it.


We just returned from four incredible days camping on a campsite right on the Upper Clackamas River. We do this once a year and it’s good for my soul.

Here are a few reasons why I love to camp:

  • You are forced to disconnect. Without cell phone coverage, you’re not constantly checking social media, dealing with emails, and just dinking around on the internet. You get used to it and it feels great.
  • You get to eat at a picnic table or by the campfire every meal and snack. Crumbs? Just brush them onto the ground.
  • Everyone smells like smoke from the campfire and no one cares.
  • Bad hair is okay and makeup is not required.
  • When the sun sets, it gets really dark and you can see the stars unlike anywhere in the city.
  • For a variety of reasons, you can justify eating all of the time. And if you camp with us, the food is amazing.
  • During the day you catch crawdads, sit in the sun, and build rock cairns. At night, you’re lulled to sleep by the sound of the water.
  • So much of Oregon is pristine and beautiful. This spot is so incredible, you can sit for hours just soaking up the view.
  • It’s okay to enjoy a campfire any time of the day.

The camping gear is all put away, the laundry is finally done, and I’m home wishing I was back in our campsite.


We’ve been back in Portland for a couple of days but I still occasionally catch a trace of some lingering smoke from the endless campfires we enjoyed. Most notably, my camera bag and my actual camera! Every time I push a memory card into a slot I get a whiff of campfire and I’m right back there on the upper Clackamas River. 

If we weren’t hiking or cooking or laughing in our campsite we were stacking rocks by the edge of the river. Our cairns weren’t built to mark paths or honor fallen comrades but they brought us joy every time we walked down to the water and found them still standing.

Preparing to camp can take some work and the unpacking and laundry that follow is part of the deal. But the memories made and the time spent together out in the wilderness is priceless.