Special Spot Shots | Cottonwood Canyon

I can’t believe that my reaction when we first arrived at Oregon’s newest state park was…

I want to go home.”

It was a hot, parched-looking landscape. There  were warnings about rattle snakes. No electric hook-up, no WiFi, no cell phone coverage… I was out of my comfort zone.  Reluctantly, I helped to set up camp.

Little did I know, then, how much I would come to miss this rustic and rugged spot.

Once I took off my self-imposed blinders, and started to explore this untamed environment,  opportunities for  “special spot shots” broke out around me.

Countless other opportunities inspired times of reflection that left impressions no camera could ever capture. Time off the grid. Time without the noise of daily life I unknowingly carry.  Time to simply be adventuresome with my husband. Time to appreciate that I didn’t need to go home.


Cottonwood Canyon encompasses 8,000 acres that once were owned by a cattle-ranching family. The span of decades from the 1930’s to early 2000 marked the years this land was owned and worked by a well-known family in the region, the  Murthas.

This special spot is located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, often considered the rugged side of the State. The walls of the main canyon, including four side canyons, reach 1,920 feet above sea level inside the park. Canyon lands are flanked by grassland, sagebrush shrub steppe, river bottom, and cliffs composed primarily of basalts of the Columbia River Basalt Group.

Between 2008 and 2013, the ranch-lands were sold by the Murtha family, and transactions took place that eventually led to the opening of this magnificent new Oregon State Park.

Special Spots at Cottonwood Canyon-

The Barn

The Equipment

The Corral

Trail markers & interpretive signage Artwork

Our Campsite

The Night

Arid Beauty

Unspoiled John Day River

Spot Shot reminder-

Good luck hangs out and can be found when least expected.


Submitted for the Lens-Artist photo challenge #78 |Special Spot Shots

9 comments

  1. A very beautiful, special spot. Your first reaction was so strong…I could feel it through your words and even between the lines. Out of your comfort zone. And then you describe how you came to love it – this is such a beautiful post. About life. About how our world is turning us – away from ourselves. But we can find our way back. “… times of reflection that left impressions no camera could ever capture. Time off the grid.” And your photos are so well captured. Thank you!

    1. Leya, I have tears in my eyes as I read your heartfelt reply. These photos have been sitting in a folder on my laptop for a few months… your challenge inspired an avenue to find and share a piece of me that was discovered in this amazing park. I’m anxious to visit again in the spring when the water in the river will be better for kayaking, and the wildflowers will be in bloom.
      When “the world is is turning us- away from ourselves,” I think it’s comforting to have the connections we find through sharing our photography and thoughts with each other. I’m so grateful your group has the Lens Artists challenge so wonderfully organized.

      1. Lovely words about our challenge too, thank you, Jane. And these connections through blogging are so valuable! People from all over the world connect, and feel we belong together – on planet Earth.

        1. I totally agree with you, and believe more and more that the connections we make through blogging have enormous potential to foster hope/understanding that people are basically good and, yes, belong together. I want to recommit myself to being a more engaged blogger and rebuilding the connections you pointed out. I think another great aspect of blogging is that it seems to remain a platform for respectful, thoughtful, and contemplative communication.

  2. I have drifted the John Day River numerous times in June from Service Creek to Cottonwood. The river is slower than other whitewater rivers with more time to comprehend its awesome beauty. Your photo journal captures so much of the hidden treasures of the place. Thanks for sharing your photos and more importantly your candid impressions. Ralph

    1. I am happy to find your thoughts, Ralph. Wonderful to learn we share an appreciation for the awesome beauty of this river. The run from Service Creek to Cottonwood looks like quite an achievement, once accomplished! The fishing looks pretty remarkable, too.

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