As with a lot a of small town names in California, Oregon City is not a city at all. It is however, worthy of historic interest.
Oregon City is a rural locale on the back roads of Butte County, California – about 5 miles uphill from the Oroville Dam. A tiny, historic camp, located in the North Sierra foothills between Oroville and Cherokee.
One of the first mining camps in the county, it was established in the autumn of 1848 by a party of Oregonians, who came to California over the Applegate and Lassen trails.
Rock River Mine
Two historic sites, open to the public:
A little covered bridge (painted red)
A wooden one-room schoolhouse (now museum)
Gravel road access w/ paved, narrow and curvy Cherokee Road being pretty much the only way in. Or hiking up Potter’s Ravine, from Lake Oroville.
Minimal residence, maximum oaks.
Oregon City was formerly known as Bloomingdale and Hengy.
North of Oroville, CA
(Not to be confused w/ Panamint Springs, CA which is NW, along the main Highway 190 on the west side of DVNP
Panamint Valley, Death Valley NP
Inyo County, NE of Ridgecrest
East of Hwy 395, south of Hwy 190
Hard to reach ghost town / abandoned mining camp on the mountainous edge of Death Valley National Park. Access via dirt road and steep trail, off the paved Trona Wildrose Road. Panamint Valley, west of Death Valley
best time to visit:November – April
Triple digit heat is common in the warmer months, so spring, autumn and winter time is best for this region, but beware of winter storms.
Snow is common on the peaks, and at higher elevations (like this place) during winter (DEC-APRIL). If you see trees on the terrain – joshua trees or pinyon pines, that indicates that snow falls here often enough. Snow is possible around Death Valley, down to 3000′ elev. during coldest of winter storms.
Surprise Canyon Wilderness BLM– Desert mountains, steep rocky terrain w/ peaks and very few trees. Surprise Canyon can become a waterfall, during heavy desert rains. The canyon is the only access up to reach this hidden town
NO MORE 4×4 Hike or backpack up Surprise Canyon No longer 4WD accessible .Gotta hike it on foot now. So get that fat ass outta the rig for some elevated heart rate (real exercise).
This desert destination used to be a very popular off-road trail, where Jeeps would wench and crawl up the narrow, rocky passage; but all that changed with a wilderness designation (1994) and no longer are machines allowed in this specific canyon area. No vehicles (engines) and no mountain bikes. No wheeled anything.
Off-roading and free-wheelin is still allowed and abundant in neighboring canyons of Nadeau Road & Panamint Valley – Pleasant Canyon, South Park Canyon, Jailhouse Canyon, Goler Wash, Isham Canyon
Ballarat ghost town has a camper bathroom w/ showers and a fee to go along with that. Panamint Springs has a small motel and a big restaurant, plus a large campground (across the highway) which can accommodate tents, camper trailers and RVs.
Death Valley National Park boundary means developed campgrounds are a few miles away up Wildrose Canyon.
Boon-docking, dispersed, FREE, open camping is allowed almost anywhere in Panamint Valley and the neighboring desert canyons. Campfire permits are required and are available at BLM office in Ridgecrest. There is no firewood, nor wood collecting around these parts, so bring your own.
Nadeau Road has abundant flat spots for RVs; Well stocked 4x4s can find secluded camping further up the canyons, but must be a self-sufficient camper and bring water, plenty of ice, extra gasoline, food and firewood.
Locating a ‘real bed’ near this remote desert region will require some driving. The closest option in Panamaint Springs, which only has a few rooms. The next closest, would be Stovepipe Wells inside the National Park.
Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains
Tahoe National Forest
North Gold Country @ Historic Highway 49
Historic ‘gold rush’ mining camps and towns line this popular recreation river in the Northern Sierra. Numerous State Parks, museums, and campgrounds can be found along this route, in which Tahoe National Forest land encompasses the whole region.
North fork of the Yuba River lines Historic Highway 49, on the way to Downieville and Sierra City, CA. Plenty of camping in these parts. Lakes Basin Recreation Area is located up behind the impressive granite spires called Sierra Buttes and this area is the headwaters for this portion of the river.
Middle fork of the Yuba River cuts through the residential mountain community on Moonshine Road, and ends up in Lake Bullards Bar; The rest of the middle fork flows through remote forest lands and is only crossed by one dirt road #191 in Tahoe NF.
South fork of the Yuba River flows from the far heights of Donner Pass and I-80; near Lake Spaulding. Passing Washington Ridge; northeast of Nevada City; and North Bloomfield @ Malakoff Diggins continuing down to Bridgeport @ South YUBA – where the longest wooden, covered bridge is located. Numerous old, one-lane bridges cross this southern fork of the river, and the region can take years to explore. Lots of residential and private properties.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a campground way back here, the CHEAPEST CAMP around; Look for signs, along the dusty North Bloomfield Rd (graded dirt road) about a mile UP hill from rickety Edwards Crossing (pictured below).
South Yuba State Park, located along the Golden Chain Hwy 49, is a short drive up Hwy 4 from Nevada City and a very popular spot for sightseeing, day hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and riverside picnics. The parking lot at the large curved bridge fills up fast, daily. Pedestrians and hikers are always seen here, so slow down driving along this portion of the highway.
The big river forks all join west of Grass Valley, heading down the mountains, paralleling Hwy 20 to Marysville, CA
The historic river town of Sierra City is defined by the North Yuba River that cuts through the granite, forested canyon. Granite towers above and snow is around more than half the year.
The river is free-running up here; Sierra City is only about 10 miles below the headwaters of the Yuba, at Lakes Basin Gold Lake California. In spring, runoff is pure Class 5 whitewater. Wild Plum Campground is walking distance to town.
Free primitive camping on dirt roads, can be found way up near the Bassetts intersection. Opposite from Gold Lake Hwy – turn RIGHT (south) on to logging roads: Forest Rd #54 (long ridge route, all dirt) and club into the forest. Drive a several miles up to any large dirt pulls out. Passenger car accessible road; No low riders. Carry a good forest map. Many primitive camp spots have wide openings with views of the Sierra Buttes and crystal clear night skies. Wind can get bad on this mountain ridge, so pick your camp spot with that in mind.
Epic view camp – or expensive river camp? (you choose). Campfire permit are required for camping outside of developed campgrounds. Bring your own water and shovel!
If you are ever in Laughlin, Nevada and find yourself in a blank stare, mesmorized at a slot machine in front of your face, wondering ‘why the hell am I here?’ – RUN for the doors & take in the warm desert sun & scenery. There is plenty to do around here for sightseeing & Route 66. Oatman, Arizona is just one favorite option.
A lively, rustic town in the Arizona desert, with a silly commercial twist. Tourist trap to some, but entertaining to others. A meeting spot for travelers, an ideal lunch stop, and conveniently located on paved roads near major highways and close to Interstate 40.
OATMAN town began as a small mining camp and grew into a large town. Many residents that live here today are shop keepers or retirees. Located near the Colorado River, with Laughlin and local indian casinos nearby.
The amount of visitors or tourists can vary depending on time of day, there can be a motorcycle club rolling through, or a meeting of hot rods. Both classic cars and bikes are popular in this desert region. Tour buses and guides also bring their guest here as a good stopping point along their desert whirlwind travels. Holiday weekends & festival weekends can get crowded as well. Centrally located, Oatman sees lots of traffic, so don’t expect a desolate ghost town atmosphere.
The town streets have very limited parking & bringing that huge RV up the hill via the narrow road is not recommended. It may be possible to take a shuttle bus from a nearby hotel.
Souvenir shops, diner, saloon, western town walkways. OATMAN ghost town is super easy to get to. Only 12 miles off the main drag (AZ 95) Mojave Hwy. South of Bullhead City, AZ. Situated up on the Black Mesa above Mojave Valley, Oatman is a modern, developed, touristy ghost town (as ghost town standards go).
BUT, NO GASOLINE IN OATMAN
elevation: 2710′ population: 128
Desert mountains, canyons.
SouthEast of Laughlin, NV
Mojave Valley – in Arizona
@ Nevada / California borders
Off Interstate 40, Route 66
When traveling in the deserts, consider more stretch breaks (mini hikes). Short hikes and viewpoints offer time for relaxing, snacking and exercise.
Remember that finding a great camp site before dark is of utmost importance, if you are not hoteling it; but bottoming out your rig, or getting stuck is another kinda adventure. No fun. Have topographic maps of the region you plan to explore, on foot, or off-road.
Primitive camping on dirt backroads is plentiful and FREE. SUV back road exploring just north of town. Silver Canyon Wash, a graded, dirt road continues back down to Bulhead City. A decent little loop drive (for those needing to get dusty to have fun). Since we’ve been writing about this road, a huge residential neighborhood has sprouted back here, so watch for private property signs. Don’t camp within eye-sight of a home, or you could have the local Sheriff out to move you (at 11pm)
Camper Trailers & RV campers should be very cautious about venturing too far down any dirt road. Wash outs can change the road annually, so it is best to get out & walk it first. The California Mojave is filled with bitchin back road camp sites, and yes, some are very accessible – even with a huge motorhome.