Oregon Trail: Day 5 – Finding Pilcher Creek Resevoir

We didn’t have far to drive with the trailer today so took a leisurly morning of blueberry pancakes before hitting the road. We drove up highway 30 through Haines in search of Pilcher Creek Resevoir. We had come across mention of it on RoadTrippers.com but the instructions for finding it were vague. Today was cooler (95 degrees) but a dip in cool mountain lake still sounded refreshing.

In Haines we decided to follow Anthony Lakes Road (Elkhorn Scenic Byway) towards the mountains where we believed the resevoir to be. The road was a pastoral beauty of gentle curves across a lush green valley full of happy cows and derelict barns. But was we started to assend into the forest it didn’t seem we were on the right track. We had to travel some distance before we could find a place to turn ourselves around.

We doubled back towards North Powder and on the way spotted a sign for Pilcher Creek Rd.  We followed a quilted patchwork of an old reassembled road for a few miles until it turned to gravel. It brought back memories of hauling our trailer up to the ghost town of Bourne a few days back. As the road wore on we became disillusioned – where was this lake? Nothing showed on the GPS. There was no cell service and finally the road had Dead End sign ahead. We had given up and were looking for a place to turn ourselves and the trailer around when a car came up through a thicket covered side road. I flagged them down and asked some young teens if they knew where the lake was. “That’s where we’re headed” said the passenger. “Your are welcome to follow us”. They assured us if we took the thicket covered side road down a steep embankment there’d be a place for us to turn around. 

They were correct. We found a grassy field at the bottom of the hill and were able to turn ourselves and double back yet again following the crumbs of dust left behind by the teens speeding along the gravel road. 

A few more miles of turns an twists on back roads (we never would have found this place on our own) and we found ourself at a near deserted resevoir where we swam and had a picnic lunch. 

     The lake was a perfect temperature. And the scenery, nestled in the mountains was breathtaking.  We  had a little wildlife entertainment as well – saving a dragon fly from drowning and watching an osprey being scolded by birds half his size. 



After lunch we headed towards La Grande. The gravel road at the top of hill giving a stunning view of the valey below, a view these happy cows enjoyed daily..


We made our way to Eagle Hot Lake RV Park between Union and La Grande. There’s a hot spring here so the air had a faint sulfur smell when the wind blew just right. Butted up against a hill on one side and a wetland on the other the spot is going to be lovely in a few years when the trees they’ve planted grow enough to provide shade. Although it was 5-10 degrees cooler today than in previous days there was no cloud cover or shade to be had at our campsite.

We decided to head to town for dinner instead of trying to cook and eat outside in this heat. We found an old school steakhouse called Ten Depot where we had a nice dinner of Eastern Oregon Beef. 

We returned to our site just as the sun was setting and had time to walk out into the marshland preserve to watch it set as the full moon rose over the hill behind our camper and the watched Venus and Jupiter form a “superstar” in the night sky. Unfortunately the marshland nearby made the mosquitos quite unbearable to be outside so we retired early and tended to our bites before bed.


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