John Day, Oregon Country

John Day Valley

Lance and Erin

John Day Oregon Country in Grant County is the land of cowboys, cowgirls, horses, cattle, rimrock, mountains, juniper, and Pondrosa Pine.

This sparsely populated area of Oregon is a wonderful playground for hiking, fishing, rafting, fossil hunting, camping, and more. This is the gateway to Malheur National Forest.

The town of John Day, named for the John Day River that runs nearby, is a small town that makes a good base for all the county has to offer. Here you will find overnight lodging, restaurants, and other services that travelors need. 

If you have never been to eastern Oregon before, there are some things you will have to get used to. If you are told something is just down the road or in the next town, be aware that this might mean 15 to 20 miles away and often it can be more. Do not be surprised if you stop in a small little town for lunch and while you are there cowboys run a herd of cattle right down main street.

Things To Do Near John Day Oregon

John Day River

The White Wolf

The middle fork of the John Day River offers great fishing. The fish population includes salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, and some bullhead trout. Everyone, regardless of age, needs a State of Oregon Fishing License to fish in Oregon's lakes, rivers, and streams.

Painted Hills


A visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument can take up a full day and more if you see it all. The park is divided into three distinct areas, all different. There are trails for hiking both short and long, and some of them are even managable in a wheelchair. Guided tours are available. There are picnic areas but no camping within the monument area. The museum and the Cant Ranch House are open on weekends. The Fossil beds are a photographers dream come true.

Magone Lake


Everyone can enjoy a visit to Magone Lake near John Day Oregon. It is a high mountain lake where you can swim, fish, hike, and camp. There are two trailheads--one for hiking and one for trailbiking. On the lake you can have both motorized and non-motorized boats. To the north east is Arch Rock National Scenic Trail.

There are three tent sites and 20 tent/trailer sites. Facilities include water, restrooms, boat ramp, group campground. All facilities are disabled accessable. The picnic area is large enough for group picnics. No reservations are taken. The campground is open from Memorial Day through the end of October.

To get there turn north from Highway 26 on Forest Service Road 18, travel 12 miles and then turn west onto Forest Service Road 3620. From here the lake is two miles.

Strawberry Lake


For some more rugged hiking you can go to the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area east of John Day Oregon. There are over 100 miles of trails at elevations from 4,000 feet to the 9,038 foot summit of Strawberry Mountain itself. The area has abundant wildlife from deer and elk to black bear and cougar. There is also plenty of smaller fur-bearing animals.

The Strawberry Campground is 11.5 miles south of Prairie City. Take Road 60 south for 11.5 miles. There is plenty of parking here and there are 11 tent/trailer sites. Water is available. You can fish in the streams or hike into Strawberry Lake a little over a mile away. There is also a trail that goes around the lake that is about one and a half miles long.

The elevation is high here and there can be unexpected snow early and late summer. The campground is open June through October but check with the Prairie City Ranger District before you go at (541) 820-3800.

Historical Activities

Kam Wah Chang Museum


There are several museums in or near John Day Oregon. In John Day itself is the Kam Wah Chung Museum. When gold was discovered in 1862 thousands of Chinese workers were brought in as laborers. The museum is a National Historic Landmark and preserves Chinese artifacts and culture from the early gold mining days in Oregon.The museum is open May 1 to October 31st. For more information call (541) 575-2800 or (800) 551-6949.

If you would like to try panning for gold yourself take a look at Oregon Gold Prospecting. It is really easy to pan for gold and there are lots of places in Oregon where you can do it.

Take a look at what pioneer life was like at the Grant County Historical Museum. See the tools they worked with, their guns, and gold mining artifacts. The museum is located at the junction of Highway 26 and Highway 395. It is open from May 15th to September 30th, Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

The DeWitt Museum Depot Park in Prarie City is a restored railroad depot. The ground floor is the waiting room, station agent's office, and baggage room. The surrounding grounds have four sets of tracks, stockyards, ore bins, and wye for turning the train. The second floor is the station agent's home and is furnished much as it would have been when the agent and his family lived there.

The museum is located at Main and Bridge Street in Prarie City. It is open May 15th to October 15th, Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 am to 5 pm.

As I mentioned before, distances are great between towns in this part of Oregon and places to stay are few and far between. It just might be that you will need to stay the night in John Day and if you do here are two choices.

Best Western John Day Inn

America's Best Value Inn John Day

John Day