On the Columbia River Gorge – Mosier, OR
September, 2015 – I had fallen in love with the incomparable Columbia River Gorge during my first visit to Oregon in 2002. During this later trip, I was glad to discover this beautiful Oregon state park to serve as my home base for more exploration.
Located on the banks of the Columbia River in a shady, scenic setting, it’s hard to beat such a combination. The exit off of I-84 to get into the park is shared with a rest area that you go through equipped with several picnic tables and views of Memaloose Island.
From here, you can find out how the island got the name Memaloose (see below) and read about Native Americans who were here first and later explorers and settlers.
Here I am in site B-27 with the river as my back yard. There is no access to the river from the park, but it sure is pretty to look at.
I enjoyed being able to look out and see ships coming up the river sometimes. It’s also fun to watch the play of shadows on the Washington hillside and how its look changes during the day.
44 full hookup sites (30 amp electric), 63 sites water only. All sites have picnic tables and fire rings with cooking grate; flush toilets/showers, RV dump station
Entrance to the campground with first camp host and sites that back up to the I-84 stretch of the Columbia River Gorge Highway on the left. These sites A1 – A15 all have full hookups.
Further down the road, the entrance to Loop A. Most sites in this loop have no hookups but water (except another camp host site A-59 at the end). Generator use is ok except during quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
From this point driving around Loop A, you can see the back of interior sites B-8 – B-12. I really loved all the lush greenery here.
Rounding the corner and getting to the sites that back up to the river. Relaxed camper on Site A-43 seen here.
Entrance to B Loop – Some sites in this loop have full hookups.
My site B-27 is at the end of Loop A. To my left were the nicest camp hosts in Site A-59. Larry & Madeline are from nearby Tygh Valley and have camp hosted here for five years now. Madeline says she loves this park – it’s peaceful and beautiful and they enjoy visiting with campers who come from all over the U.S. and Canada. All the camp hosts I met here were friendly and helpful and obviously do a good job because the campground is one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen, including the restrooms.
Site B-33 – To me, this is the best site. Great views of the river and still open enough to get satellite TV (my site was too heavily treed for that, but I was able to pick up a few local channels from the antenna). These river view sites are reserved well in advance, so be sure to get your reservations in early.
I enjoy visiting with the rangers or park managers whenever possible and always learn something I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own. One of the things Steve told me when I was admiring this big willow tree across from my site is that the trees here are part of what makes Memaloose unique in the area. As you can see from the other pictures showing the sparse trees on the banks, these large shade trees are not typical for this eastern section or the gorge. The willow, birch and poplar trees throughout the park are not native to the area and were planted in the 50s and 60s. They certainly contribute to the beauty of the park, but they also present challenges in drought years like this one has been. I was impressed with Steve’s obvious love for his park and how much he enjoys sharing its beauty with visitors.
I always do short recaps of pros and cons about the parks I visit. I realize this is subjective stuff and what bothers some people, others won’t have a problem with, and vice versa. As a fulltime RVer, I like things that weekend campers can do without. But, based on my own observations and/or comments from others, here goes:
A great campground with large, beautiful trees, good distance between sites and river views, and right on the Columbia River Gorge, one of the most gorgeous settings in the country!
Full hookup options in a scenic state park – the best of all worlds!
Great location convenient to The Dalles and Hood River and many other attractions.
Small playground for children.
If you’re looking for a really super quiet location, you won’t appreciate the train that runs alongside the river (and at the back of those sites that back up to it). On the other side is I-84 and the noise generated from that highway. I honestly was not terribly bothered by the train going by even at night because they never blew the horn. Instead, I enjoyed watching it when it came by.
Here you can see the RR tracks – they’re about 800′ below the bluff where the campground sits.
The fact is, the Columbia River Gorge is a narrow corridor with train tracks on one side (even across the river on the Washington side) and the highway on the other side. So if you want to stay on the gorge itself, that’s just the way it is. To me, the convenience and beauty of the location was worth it, but you should know about this factor before you go.
It seems some people think that because the river is so close, there is access to it from the campground, but that is not the case due to the active railroad line. Several legal and safe river access options exist within a 5-15 minute drive from the campground. Mayer State Park is a nearby day use park with swimming, boating, fishing and picnicking available. Koburg Beach is another option between Mosier and Hood River.
There are no nature trails or other activities within the park itself, but get out on the gorge for unlimited opportunities there! See Historic Highway 30.
Pet Friendly: No extra charge for pets. All pets must be on leash and cleaned up after; dog pens are allowed. See Pets in Parks brochure for more info.
Satellite TV: Most of the campground is heavily treed and it looked to me like just a few sites would be able to get satellite TV from rooftop setups like mine. However, quite a few had Tailgater or tripod deals and they were able to maneuver around the trees to get reception that way.
Internet/Wi-Fi/Cell Phone: No wi-fi at the campground. My Verizon Jetpack had 4G service and I got great cell phone reception.
All Malia’s Miles Columbia River Gorge pages:
Malia’s 2 Cents: When I can stay in a scenic campground with full hookups and easy access to beautiful sightseeing, I’m pretty much the happiest of campers. I enjoyed being able to get right on the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 or drive down Historic Scenic Highway 30 with some of the most amazing viewpoints I’ve ever seen anywhere.
Your Two Cents? The only way I know if the reviews and research I present are helpful to you is if I hear from you. I sure would appreciate your feedback in Comments below. I do have some pictures of a few individual sites and if you want to see any, leave comment below and I will post here.
More Memaloose State Park info:
541-478-3008 (Park) Online Reservations: (Reserve America) or call 800-452-5687. Current Campground Rates. Reservations must be made 1 day ahead of arrival and can be made up to 9 months in advance. It costs $8 more to reserve. The campground is closed from November 1 to mid March.
Without a reservation, you can check at the kiosk or camp host for available sites. The ones without a Reserved sign on the post can be occupied for one night and then you can check with the ranger or camp host in the morning if you want to extend longer.
Directions: From Reservations page: *Note: GPS Navigational Error: Some GPS systems may direct you to turn South onto old hwy 30 (Historic Columbia River Highway) to get to Memaloose. This direction leads you to Memaloose Overlook, NOT Memaloose Campground. Turn around options are limited and drive time could be extended 10-30 minutes. Coordinates: 45°41’42.8″N — 121°20’10.5″W
East on I-84: take Rowena Exit 76. Follow signs that say Memaloose. Turn left and re-enter I-84 West (do not cross RR tracks). Go 3 miles to Memaloose Rest Area and Campground exit. Drive through rest area to Campground Entrance. (Note: If you cross over the railroad tracks by mistake turn around at the boat ramp parking lot and exit Mayer park. Turn right and re-enter I-84 West. Follow I-84 West directions).
West on I-84: take Memaloose Rest Area and Campground exit, milepost 73. Drive through rest area to Campground; turn right at park entrance.
How Did Memaloose Get Its Name?
From sign at rest area: The lone monument visible on this Memaloose Island marks the grave of Victor Trevitt, a pioneer printer, businessman, state legislator, and friend of the Indians. Trevitt requested burial here among the people he loved. Ironically, water rising behind the Bonneville Dam prompted relocation of Indian graves during the 1930s, and today, only Victor Trevitt’s grave remains.
Islands of the Dead: The Indian Peoples of the Columbia River did not bury their dead until very recent times. Instead, bodies were wrapped in robes or tule mats and deposited in canoes which were placed in the woods, on rocky points, or in cedar vaults derived from the Chinook word memalust which means “to die.” Explorers Lewis and Clark named this island “Sepulchur Island” in 1805 and visited it in 1806.
Memaloose Island is one of several “islands of the dead” once found in the Columbia. Today, many of these islands are covered by the backwaters of the Columbia’s dams – only one-third of the island below is visible above the river.