LINN COUNTY, Oregon — Oregon offers so many reasons to go on the road, where the asphalt often unwinds to reveal the state’s scenic secrets.
It’s the unexpected surprises found along the way that I enjoy most — and so it is for a destination that offers a camping, fishing and a backcountry byway at Green Peter Lake.
In the broad-shouldered Willamette Valley, try the splendors of summer from a unique point of view under the many Covered Bridges of Linn County.
Perhaps stop in at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Roaring River Hatchery where you can learn more too.
"Folks come out to look at the fish for sure," said Tim Shambers with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "While they’re here we try to show them something that will raise their level of knowledge about what happens at a hatchery. It’s also a fine place to sit, relax and enjoy an afternoon."
Near Sweet Home, you can quickly discover that this Oregon county is huge, gargantuan and expansive.
"Folks look at the beautiful Willamette Valley, the farm country and all, and think that’s all there is to us – but the truth is more than half of Linn County is forested," said Brian Carroll of Linn County’s Parks. "People are usually surprised to learn that the Willamette National Forest is a large part of the county."
It is a county that cries out for closer inspection, and soon you will discover a bit of unhurried heaven on earth at Green Peter Lake where boating and camping adventures are easy to find.
"It’s remote and yet it’s close," noted Carroll. "We have one of the biggest bodies of water in the state of Oregon and it’s kind of hidden."
At 3,700 acres, Green Peter Lake is home to boating, swimming, water-skiing and especially fishing.
Fisherman Kent Cannon said anglers come from all over to try their trolling luck for trout or especially kokanee, land-locked sockeye salmon that are a big draw for longtime anglers.
Cannon uses an electronic fish finder graph, plus electric downriggers to reach the feisty fish that can swim to 100 feet deep.
His bait of choice is right out of the kitchen cupboard, called shoepeg corn.
"It’s the sweetness of the corn they like," noted Carroll. “Plus, the shoepeg style has long kernels so they are easier and firmer to put on a hook.”
According to retired state fish biologist Steve Mamoyac, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages Green Peter Lake for kokanee and trout.
"We stock about 50,000 catchable rainbow trout each year," noted Mamoyac. "We’ve been stocking about 50,000-fingerling kokanee to augment natural production in the basin too."
The nearby Whitcomb Creek County Park is perfectly suited to anglers seeking a multi-day stay. It sports two boat ramps near a campground that offers 39 roomy sites for tent or trailer.
While the sites do not offer water or electrical hook-ups, they do provide plenty of elbow room to stretch out in a pleasant, wooded setting.
“You can come up here to find that special outdoor experience that’s not as crowded as other places,” said Carroll.
The roadway calls you back on a western approach into the Cascades where Douglas fir and western hemlock trees flank a route called the Quartzville Backcountry Byway.
The Quartzville Byway meanders past Green Peter Lake along the clear, cool waters of the Quartzville Creek; designated a National Wild and Scenic River.
It’s an amazing corridor of old growth forest, accented by rocky outcroppings and wildflowers. Some of the giant trees are 450 years old and tower more than 200 feet tall.
All together, the scenery, the fishing and the locale — so close to the Willamette Valley — provide a fabulous getaway that’s close to home.
Once visited, you’ll return real soon.
Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the Grant’s Getaways podcast. Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.
You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:
"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill
"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill
“Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.