Simple pleasures on the Metolius

Central Oregon's Metolius River offers easy summer days, mellow nights -- and a lot of trout

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Campgrounds and trailheads

Not much farther from town are nine primitive Forest Service campgrounds scattered along the Metolius from Camp Sherman to Jefferson Creek. Even at the height of the summer season, we've always been able to score a campsite, though we've sometimes been beaten to our favorite site ― a quiet spot set off from the other campers, on a slight rise, where the river bends and drops to a low rumble and splash, a spot the particulars of which will not be disclosed here in any further detail.

Usually campgrounds put you closer to trailheads for hiking or biking than do resorts, but that's not the case here. From cabin or tent, a network of trails and roads ― paved and unpaved ― starts right outside the door or the tent flap. The options for mountain bikers are broad, from gentle to gonzo. Ditto for hikers, who can climb Black Butte Trail, launch a foray into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, or stroll for miles along one or both sides of the river.

The river trail is where we usually end up, and we start those walks at Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, about 5 miles north of Camp Sherman. We thought a trip to the hatchery would make a nice edutainment experience for the kids; these days, though, it's we adults who beg to linger a few minutes more. Drop a quarter in the fish-food dispenser and scatter your fistful of brown pellets all at once to start a feeding frenzy, or ― our preferred approach ― dole them out one at a time to watch the bigger brook and rainbow trout along with the kokanee and Atlantic salmon lunge and strike, flashing silver and scarlet bellies. Pretty simple pleasures ― which, at the end of the day, is the point of a trip to the Metolius.

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