Camp Sherman & The Metolius River
The Camp Sherman Store at the heart of Camp Sherman, Oregon
Camp Sherman should be on your list of places to visit and explore on your trip to the Sisters/Black Butte area. It is a small forest community of a couple hundred residents located deep in the Deschutes National Forest. The beautiful spring fed Metolius River, runs down the center of the Metolius Basin and is the central attraction. The Metolius arrises from the ground at the Head of the Metolius (look for the established access area and parking lot off of Metolius River Road). Here you can follow a short paved path down to the headwaters where the river officially begins and a gorgeous view of Mount Jefferson awaits you. Access is provided via private easement, so please be respectful and remain on the path. Pets must always be on leash. Look out for the curious and food-motivated chipmunks who might harass you along the way.
The Metolius features the second highest water quality of any river in the state, second only to a small feeder creek located in the Blue Mountains of north east Oregon. It is considered to be “above drinking water quality” along its entire stretch down to Lake Billy Chinook. We don’t however, encourage you to drink from the river because you never know what contamination might be lurking up the last upstream bend! The quality of the water is quite remarkable, given the many homes and cabins along the river. This is due in large part to the strict rules regarding septic tank inspections, but more so because of the areas geology. The river is sealed off by bedrock along its banks. Camp Sherman is very much a natural setting, but humans have been living alongside nature here since the turn of the last century.
Camp Sherman got its name from some of the first white settlers that began visiting the area and built rustic camps and cabins. They travelled here from Sherman County, Oregon to escape the summer heat and to take a break from the back braking work on their hayfields. Most of these original structures are still standing today. There is even an annual cabins tour that you can participate in, put on by the local historical society. Native Americans, however, had been living, hunting and fishing here for tens of thousands of year prior to white settlement. There are relics and evidence of community sites along the river banks. Sometimes arrowheads and even fishing spear tips are found.
The origins of the name “Metolius” are still disputed, but some think that it means “stinking river” in the native tongue. This was from the thousands of chinook and sockeye salmon that used to migrate, spawn and die up river. It is difficult to image today what a large salmon run must have looked up here, but the last recorded migration occurred in the early 1950s before the building of the Bonneville dam on the Columbia River. Even to this day, fisherman recall fishing for these sea-run monsters in their childhoods. The termination of this fishery caused heartbreak and outrage among angers and nature lovers alike. Today, there are efforts to bring back self-sustaining runs of salmon to the Metolius and the upper Deschutes River Basin.
The Metolius is a remarkable and resilient ecosystem. The loss of ocean-derived nutrients from the dead salmon are sorely missed by the local flora and fauna (humans included!) but nature has a way of adapting. The river is one of only a few in the state where no hatchery trout are released so that wild fish populations can thrive. If you are a fly fisherman, you have probably heard of the Metolius River before and it might even be on your life list of places to visit. The Metolius is a true “testing ground” for the angler. It does not give up its fish easily. If you are lucky enough to catch a fish here, please be very careful and keep your fish wet, don’t drag it into the bank and always pinch your barbs. People practice catch and release, fly fishing only here (by regulation) to help ensure that the population remains healthy and viable. This is a true shared resource by all of us.
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Welcome to Sisters Country
The Three Sisters Wilderness
Sisters, Oregon is located in the central region of the state of Oregon, nestled up against the 287,000 acre Three Sisters Wilderness on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. Sisters is considered to be apart of the greater Bend metropolitan area. The beautiful Three Sisters volcanos tower over this small community of about 3,000 people (September, 2019). The area is dominated by Ponderosa pines, juniper and sage brush on an ecological gradient as one heads from west to east. The Sisters region is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the state and draws visitors from around the world to experience its natural beauty.
The geology of the Sisters region is one of the primary factors that makes it ecologically unique. The area’s natural history is dominated by relatively recent volcanic activity. In fact, the Three Sisters are classified as active volcanos. A trip up the beautiful Mckenzie Pass highway (Route 242) reminds us that lava flowed here as recently as a couple thousand years ago. Make sure to check for seasonal closures. The road historically opens in June and closes in October due to snowpack.
The city of Sisters is surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest, which is a diverse playground for the outdoor recreation enthusiast. People come here to explore its many hiking and mountain bike trails, fly fish its rivers and to connect with nature. The Forest is also home to a wide array of plant and animal species including cougar, black bear and elk. To learn more about the Deschutes National Forest, please visit their website.
Downtown Sisters is a charming town, themed in the “old west” architecture. You will find a wide variety of shops and restaurants to meet your needs and satisfy your tastes. Black Butte Ranch, located some twelve miles to the west, offers three dining options. And the small forest community of Camp Sherman has two restaurants. For an awesome lunch, check out the famous sandwhiches at the Camp Sherman Store and Fly Shop. Heading further west, your last dining option is at the Suttle Lake Lodge before you start heading over the Santiam Pass which takes you to the Willamette Valley.
Want to visit the Sisters area and Black Butte Ranch? Check out the vacations rental homes offered by Black Butte Vacations to find your perfect getaway. Black Butte Ranch has many on site activities such as golfing, tennis, horseback riding, hiking, frisbee golf and more. Experience central Oregon in a beautiful, quiet setting. The scenery is breathtaking and you will create many great memories for years to come. Many visitors fall in love with the area and make it a point to visit year after year.