Located near Waso, Oregon, Cottonwood Canyon State Park s almost 1/2 way between Portland, OR and the John Day Fossil Bed Monuments, with the drive being about 2 hours to each location. Opened in 2013, the park now has over 8,000 acres of land, which makes the park the 2nd largest Oregon State Park by land as of this writing. However, the park also is one of the least visited parks in Oregon, (3rd least visited on 2019), which makes it great for stargazing. For those interested in visiting, check out this article!
Really Dark Sky
In work done by the Oregon Chapter of the IDA and CosmosPNW, it has been found that the skies at Cottonwood Canyon State Park are darker than Prineville reservoir. It’s not by much, but this puts the park in the territory of becoming an IDA Designated Dark Sky Park!
Lots of Great Views Of The Night Sky
Although the views from the canyon does mean not being able to have views of the entire skies in some places, the views are amazing! The vast expanse of the park and numerous areas to explore does provide views from outside the canyon too. Many of these areas have an almost complete 360 degree view of the sky, which provides the observer with stunning views of the nights sky.
Lots Of Room And Hidden Spots
One of the largest state parks in Oregon, Cottonwood Canyon has plenty of room to find a great spot that is unique to you. The large expanse of land means lots of opportunities to find spots that only you know about. And even if there are others doing astronomy in the area, there are a plethora of areas to choose from away from others!
The cabins and campgrounds are great, and the hiking trails and other daytime activities are fun for the whole family!
Close to Other Dark Sky Locations
Because of its location, Cottonwood Canyon is very close to a number of very dark sites. These sites include but are not limited to John Day Fossil Beds, and Goldendale Observatory. Being so close to these sites means that you can use Cottonwood Canyon State Park as a midway point to visiting John Day or as a base to use to visit the Goldendale observatory.