Fishing, camping, hiking await at refreshing Bull Prairie
By Cheryl Hoefler
Blue Mountain Eagle
Looking for a new weekend getaway location close to home in Grant County?
Bull Prairie Lake Campground, tucked away at the far northwest corner of the county, is easy to access and just might offer the respite you seek.
With a lake size of 28 acres, and 30 camping spots, Bull Prairie is comparable in size to Magone Lake. Bull Prairie is a bit lower – 4,000 feet elevation – than Magone, but nestled in the pines of the Umatilla National Forest, it still has all the makings of a cool and serene hideaway spot.
Fishing, non-motorized boating, hiking and camping are just a few of the outdoor activities that await visitors at Bull Prairie.
At the entrance, a road to the immediate left leads to a large day-use area along the lake’s southwest corner, with ample parking and a boat dock. Continuing straight instead at the entrance leads into the main campground, plus small day-use areas.
The day use area is clearly marked, with a few parking spots and picnic benches beneath the shady pine trees. A 1.2-mile trail circles the lake, and several smaller paths – some paved, some gravel – lead to it from outlying picnic and camp spots.
The main trail is narrow, but level, paved and smooth. There are even convenient wider “pull-out” spots to allow for passers-by, children on bikes, people toting canoes and other gear.
Wooden bridges have been constructed over marshy areas of the trail. Several benches are strewn along the way – perfect for savoring the view, the wildflowers, and the call of birds overhead.
Among the abundant wildflowers blooming in mid-summer are small purple asters, lupines and Bruneau mariposa lilies.
The paved path is only interrupted on the west side where it connects with the large day-use and boat ramp area.
Four small fishing docks, complete with seating and each leading from the trail, are also scattered around the lake, which is stocked with rainbow and brook trout.
Only non-motorized water craft are allowed on the lake. Morrow-Grant County Off Highway Vehicle Park is just to the north, but ATVs are not allowed within the campground.
Several modern vault restrooms are also available throughout the campground.
Bull Prairie opened in 1962. It was developed by the Forest Service in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Kinzua Corporation. ODFW built the dam and stocks the lake annually with trout.
Both daytime and overnight visitors are advised to bring their own water and be prepared to pack out their garbage too. Camping rates – $14 for a single site, $19 for a double – are reduced when water is not available.
For more information, call the Umatilla National Forest office in Pendleton at 541-278-3716.
How to get there:
Bull Prairie Lake Campground is located in the Heppner Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest.
From Kimberly in northwestern Grant County, take State Route 19 east toward Spray. After about nine miles, turn north on State Route 207 toward Hardman and Heppner. At about 12.5 miles, turn east on paved Forest Service Road 2039 – there’s a clearly marked sign for Bull Prairie Lake – about 2-1/2 miles to the lake and campground.
Bull Prairie Lake Campground is also accessible from Monument via Grant County Road 3 just west of town, but that road is only paved for about 10 miles, and then it’s gravel Forest Service roads after that to the lake.
If you’re headed south on SR 207, the campground is about 40 miles from Heppner.
About six miles from Kimberly on SR 19, is Shady Cove Recreation Area, a nice little spot for a break, especially if you’re traveling from farther away.
Forgot the ice or sunscreen? Spray is about three miles past the SR 207 turnoff, and Monument is 32 miles east of Kimberly.