If your idea of a "green" getaway includes tall, fragrant pine trees, grassy acres that invite Frisbee tossing, miles of scenic hiking and biking trails and a place to wet your fishing line, Joseph H. Stewart State Park could be your budget-friendly dream destination.
It's a handy little jaunt for Southern Oregon residents, just 34 miles northeast of Medford on Highway 62 near Trail. The park is a generous chunk of forestland that meanders along the southern shores of Lost Creek Lake. The surroundings offer a panorama of natural beauty, an abundance of woodland creatures and just enough conveniences to keep city folks comfortable.
Whether you prefer "roughing it" in your motor home or pitching your tent on the turf, the park offers more than 200 sites, some with the bare essentials, some with electric hookups and water for those who bring their beds with them. Bathroom facilities and hot showers are available in each loop to wash off the smell of the campfire or the residue of a successful fishing excursion.
For the hiker or bicyclist, there are more than 11 miles of beautiful trails surrounding the park and leading down to the marina. Paved pathways encircle native vegetation, cross over gurgling streams and offer glimpses of resident wildlife.
Lost Creek Lake is a 10-mile-long reservoir that provides plenty of elbow room for sail boats, water skiers and anglers who fish for trout, crappie and smallmouth bass.
In a tucked-away cove, Lost Creek Marina provides fuel, boat rentals, permanent and overnight moorage, and it has a seasonal store and café. The boat ramp and ample parking areas allow for easy water access for boat owners.
You may not think of a camping trip as a venue for live entertainment, but Stewart Park provides a variety of activities every weekend during the summer months.
"We have evening programs on the weekends, Friday and Saturday nights, from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend," says park manager Perry Salvestrin.
Younger campers can take part in workshops put on by Junior Rangers, who supervise hands-on projects for the kids, and the weekend schedule includes movies, music, plays and cooking demonstrations.
"We come here every year," says Central Point resident Mark Kruger. "We have family get-togethers in the group camp area, and we even had our family reunion here one year. The kids have a lot of room to run around, and they love cooking hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire. There's always something fun to do."
Downstream from Lost Creek Dam, the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery is an interesting stop, especially when the steelhead are making spectacular leaps up the fish ladders. From the observation deck, visitors can overlook holding ponds filled with trout, chinook and coho salmon and see into the spawning area. It is the largest hatchery in the Pacific Northwest, producing up to 425,000 pounds of trout and salmon per year.
The park gets very busy during the summer, Salvestrin warns, especially over the holiday weekends, so it's a good idea to reserve your spot ahead of time. You can call 541-560-3334 or 800-551-6949 for park and general information or look for Joseph H. Stewart State Park at www.oregonstateparks.org to make reservations online.