Thursday, September 21, 2023


Williamson River Campground: Awesome, unexpected Oregon National Forest RVing

I am terrible about planning trips in advance and rarely plan more than one or two nights ahead. Therefore, I knew I had only myself to blame when I found it impossible to reserve places to stay when traveling from Auburn, CA, to Yakima, WA, in early August. The national forest campgrounds I found that were reservable were booked solid. Even Harvest Hosts offered no room at the local inn. I did not need hookups nor the amenities or expense of commercial RV “resorts.”

Oh, well, I thought. Rest areas and truck stops it is.

But then, while motoring along Hwy. 97, I happened upon signs along the road near Chiloquin, Oregon, for Collier State Park and Williamson River, both of which had campgrounds.

It was the height of tourist season and I had no reservations, so my hopes weren’t high. But since I had time to kill in the area, I figured it would not hurt to check them out. If for no other reason than for a future visit.

Don’t make this campground mistake!

Like many others, I mistakenly believed that if all the reservations for campgrounds in the area were full, surely the first-come, first-served campgrounds would be full, as well. Don’t make this mistake! It turns out that was not the case at all.

Besides scoring a great National Forest campsite on the fly, this experience has taught me never to assume such things again.

Now, maybe I would not drive hundreds of miles out of my way on the off chance of scoring a campsite. But if the campground in question is right along the route, it’s worth stopping in to see.

Once I turned off Hwy. 97, the road split with one fork going to the state park and the other to the Williamson River campground. As I have a national parks pass that gets me half-price off camping, I opted for Williamson River. In this case, that meant I paid a mere five bucks a night for this large, beautiful, forested site.

RV at Oregon's Williamson River campground

A friendly campground host greeted me. When I inquired if there were any spaces available, she answered, “Sure, lots of them.” And indeed there were, despite the fact that there are only 19 total sites in the campground.

As I drove around to pick my spot, I saw a few tent campers and a couple of RVers scattered among lots of empty sites. It filled up a little more that night, but we all had plenty of space between us. The sites are large and spaced respectably far apart, and there was room to leave empty space between most neighbors.

Williamson River Campground is situated in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, about 7 miles north of Chiloquin, Oregon. It neighbors Collier Memorial State Park, where you will find a logging museum and other natural attractions and activities. A 1 1/2-mile hiking trail connects the two campgrounds.

This is dry camping but you will find vault toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, drinking water, and a campground host on duty. Visitors at the campground enjoy excellent fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

The best part of this campground is the easy access to the small but scenic Williamson River. It’s only about 1/10-of-a-mile easy walk from camp.

When I visited this was a gentle portion of the river perfect for those who wanted to sit and soak, or for kids or dogs who like to splash in the water. There are even stumps strategically placed to help you cross the stream without getting into the clear but cold water.

Williamson Rover Campground river access

When I posted about the place in’s Free RV Campgrounds Facebook Group, not surprisingly it quickly became a popular post.

One group member asked how the roads getting to camp were and if I thought there was room for fifth wheels or other “high profile” RVs.

I answered:

You do have about 3/4 of a mile of dirt washboard road to go over to get to the campground. It’s not bad, it is graded and level, just take it slowly. There were a couple of fifth wheels here. There are two pull-through spots that I saw. The rest are back in but large.

Williamson River Campground wrap-up

To wrap it up, the Williamson River Campground in Chiloquin, Oregon, was an awesome, inexpensive place to stop with a whole lot to like about it:

  • $10 a night, $5 if you have a National Parks Pass.
  • Strong Verizon signal; I can’t speak for other carriers.
  • Close to Hwy. 97.
  • The campground and surrounding area are beautiful and quiet.
  • Lots of bird and wildlife watching opportunities.
  • Quick, easy access to the river for fly fishing or just for communing with nature.
  • Hiking trails start in the camp, including one that takes you to Collier State Park.
  • First-come, first-served, but there were LOTS of available spaces when I arrived on a Thursday in August, so take a chance.
  • Friendly campground host on duty.
  • Level campsites—most will fit a 30-foot RV, some larger.
  • Trash pickup, vault toilets, picnic tables, drinking water, and fire rings.

Learn more about the Williamson River Campground here. 

And want to learn about more National Forest Campgrounds? This is the guidebook for that.


Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard is the author 8 published books on topics as diverse as US Citizenship to Cannabis Cooking. Cheri grew up in a circus family and has been RVing on and off her entire life.


  1. It’s an OK, average campground, dusty as cars drive through. I wouldn’t consider it awesome (for me). Anyplace I have to watch for rattlesnakes is not awesome. There are not zillions of them, but I am careful for the dog. It can be quite buggy there depending on time of year.
    National Forest types of campgrounds are iffy for availability like any, depending on what else is going on close. This one is close to a casino, close to the south entrance road to Crater Lake, the logging museum has special things going on at times, there are train mountain projects, and so on, so it can fill up. Fire destroyed the state campground next door a couple years ago, but it has been reopened. I’ve stayed in both places. There’s also a little primitive campground near there where only a few fire rings are there and a vault toilet, definitely not for big rigs.

  2. We have used this formula many times during 22 years of full timing. First off if the CG has no hookups, you have about 98% command over other RVers.


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