The The Cove Palisades State Park is a popular camping and boating destination in Central Oregon’s high desert region. Surrounding the Dechutes River and Crooked River appendages of Lake Billy Chinook, a 4,000 acre lake formed by the construction of the Round Butte Dam in 1964, The Cove Palisades State Park is also a geologically significant destination.
We visited the park in June, when temperatures were hot, but not uncomfortable. Arriving from the north on SW Mountain View Drive, we stopped at a scenic overlook for panoramic photos and to appreciate The Dechutes Formation, a massive basin comprised of exposed layers of mineral capped by lava flows from the explosion of Cascade volcanoes million of years ago.
The top of the basin is known as The Rimrock Basalt, or a cap of volcanic basalt that cooled in tall, columnar formations of various heights and angles. Palisades are columnar formations, hence the park’s name.
One of the few places to houseboat in the state of Oregon, guests interested in renting a houseboat should stop at the marina at the Cove Palisades Resort & Marina. We did not stop here, but noticed signs for cabins, a store, restaurant, and rentals ranging from a party barges, to jet skis, pontoon boats, and kayaks. Rental cabins are also located near here.
Beyond aquatic recreation, the park has a network of over ten miles of hiking trails, with the seven-mile Tam-a-lau trail many people consider a breathtaking journey. You won’t find much shade or respite from the sun on this trail, plan to bring a durable water bottle, sunscreen, and a hat and choose your time of day according to daylight and temperature. The hike has a 600 foot elevation gain from the trail head to the plateau overlooking Lake Billy Chinook.
Our day trip took us past Crooked River Petroglyph, a short distance from the Dechutes River Campground. This is an easy and accessible activity, especially for anyone traveling with older and younger passengers. We parked near the Upper Dechutes Day Use area and enjoyed a stroll down to the lakefront. You will find a sandy swimming beach, picnic tables and picnic pavilion, and modern restrooms. If you do not have an annual Oregon State Park pass, you will need to pay a daily use fee at the pay station near the main parking lot.
We also spotted a waterfall cascading down the cliffs near the base of the Crooked River Campground, but there really isn’t a good trail leading up to this attraction. For more information and ideas on planning your own visit to The Cove Palisades State Park, check out this website.