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Ainsworth State Park Camping OR

Ainsworth State Park Camping OR

Camp Oregon recently had a chance to speak with one of the Park Rangers from Ainsworth State Park in Oregon. She shared with us the history of the park, how to secure a campsite in the park, and where to see the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America. Listen to our full interview here:

Ainsworth State Park Camping OR

Camp Oregon: I’m talking with Mo today. She’s a Ranger at Ainsworth State Park in Oregon. Melissa is your name, but you go by Mo.

Mo: I go by Mo.

CO: All right. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit of history on the Park there? How it got started.

Ainsworth State Park - Photo courtesy of Tim Mason

Ainsworth State Park – Photo courtesy of Tim Mason

Mo: Oh, well, pretty much it is named Ainsworth State Park after we had a steamboat captain on the Columbia River who was John C. Ainsworth. And they had actually owned the land and donated it to the State of Oregon. It became actually part of the highway in about the 1930s and then has since – the Highway Commission is who actually started the State Parks, and then it became a State Park after the State Parks actually formed their owned agency. So, it was named, like I said, after a local person and has continued to stay kind with the local flavor since then.

CO: A local steamboat captain who apparently did pretty well for himself back in the day.

Mo: Yeah, definitely. I mean the river was pretty much one of the main. Between the river and the railroad that was pretty much the main way any goods would get to or from the east part of Oregon to the west part of Oregon and vice versa. And wasn’t until they put the historic highway in, which was actually the first paved road in Oregon, that there was actually car traffic or truck traffic that was able to get to the area. So, yes, our steamboat captains at one point were the kings of the freight.

CO: Pretty cool. Pretty cool. Now, tell me what types of camping you have there at Ainsworth State Park.

Tent Camping in Ainsworth State Park - Photo courtesy of Sarah Konopasky

Tent Camping in Ainsworth State Park – Photo courtesy of Sarah Konopasky

Mo: Well, pretty much we have 44 full hook-up sites, which some of them are even pull-throughs. A good majority of them. One of them is a full ADA accessible site. We have six walk-in sites as well as some biker hiker sites that people would come in with just their bikes. Yeah. So, there’s no reservations there, which is kind of neat, so pretty much it’s a first come, first served campground – the whole thing. And if you show up and there’s a site, it’s yours.

CO: And how often do you have to turn people away, if it’s full?

Mo: Well, in the summertime, definitely we encourage people to get there Thursday or early on a Friday. In the summertime, definitely, it’s harder to find a spot there if you show up on a midday on Saturday, but spring and fall you are almost always going to find a spot weekdays or weekends.

CO: Okay, cool. And what are the most popular activities there for guests?

Hiking the Columbia Gorge Trail No. 400 - Photo courtesy of Erin Howarth

Hiking the Columbia Gorge Trail No. 400 – Photo courtesy of Erin Howarth

Mo: Well, as it’s situated right along the Historic Columbia River Highway, you have access to amazing things around there. It’s the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America; are right there on the Historic Highway. There are eight major falls and then a lot of lesser, smaller falls. And then to get to those falls a lot of them are some great hiking trails. There’s hiking trails east and west of the campground that link up to the campground. You also can get to the Pacific Rush Trail very easily from Ainsworth State Park. Also, along the Historic Highway is the Vista House, which is a Historic National Site that was originally built as a rest stop along the highway, but it’s a magnificent building and it’s a lot more than a rest stop.

CO: Sure. Sure.

Mo: And also, just being right along the Columbia River, you have access to great fishing as well as swimming in the summer and that kind of stuff. And Ainsworth State Park is situated about 35 miles outside of Downtown Portland. So, if you forget anything or want a night on the town while you’re camping, you can get there within 45 minutes.

CO: Very cool. Two more questions for you, Mo. If you could spend just one hour at Ainsworth State Park, how would you spend your time there?

Mo: Well, we do have a great firewood sale there from our amazing host, so it’s nice in the evening to have a little campfire and roast some marshmallows. But during the daytime, I would be doing a lot of hiking. There is rock formations, waterfalls, amazing stuff literally right outside the campsite. You can actually even see them from most of your campsites. So I’d be doing a lot of hiking and just kind of enjoying the nature of the area.

CO: Cool. And if you could spend just one night in Ainsworth State Park, which specific campsite would you choose and why?

The waterfalls near Ainsworth State Park - Photo courtesy of CJ Gifford

The waterfalls near Ainsworth State Park – Photo courtesy of CJ Gifford

Mo: Well, I particularly like the A Loop, which is if you’re going to do an RV, that is nice. They’re all pull-through sites up there and you kind of butt up to a beautiful rock formation. But as I don’t own an RV, I would definitely be in the walk-in sites because the walk-in sites are just a little bit more up and out of the way. Just a little more private and just kind of more in your own area. But I definitely love the walk-in sites, but if I was in an RV, I would be in the A sites because you’ve your one way you’re looking at the rocks and the other way you’re looking out kind of over the river.

CO: Very cool. Well, hey Mo, thank you so much for taking a little bit of time out of your day today to tell us about Ainsworth State Park in Oregon.

Mo: Yeah, no problem.

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