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Cove Palisades State Park

The Cove Palisades State Park. Many people who drive through this part of north central Oregon are more intent on their distant destinations than on the arid landscape they're passing through. But venture down the two-lane roads to Cove Palisades State Park, a mini Grand Canyon of red-rock cliffs and gorges 14 mi west of small-town Madras. On a clear day a column of snowcapped Cascades peaks lines the horizon during the drive from town. Lake Billy Chinook, a glittering oasis amid the rocks, snakes through the park. It's formed by the Deschutes, Metolius, and Crooked rivers. The park is accessible year-round, but high season is summertime, when families camp on the lakeshore and houseboats drift unhurriedly from cliff to cleft. The lake is renowned for its wildlife, from the lake's bull trout to turkey vultures that fill the sky with their cries. Nature lovers also flock to the park in February for the annual eagle watch. The Crooked River Day Use Area is the most immediately accessible part of the park, a great place to cast a line into the water, launch a boat, or raid your picnic basket. Nearby is the Cove Palisades Marina, where you can rent fishing and houseboats, clean fish, and buy sandwiches and boat supplies, including kids' water toys. In addition to 10 mi of hiking trails, Cove Palisades has a driving loop around its craggy rim. Near the Ship Rock formation, you may see petroglyphs carved into a boulder by indigenous people who moved through the area centuries ago. Two full-service campgrounds has full hookups, electrical sites with water, and tent sites, boat slips, and cabins. 7300 Jordan Rd., Off U.S. 97, 27 miles north of Redmond, Culver, OR, 97734. 541/546–3412, 800/551–6949, or 800/452–5687. www.oregonstateparks.org. Day use $5 per vehicle.

Updated: 2013-08-15

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