Camping at Bridgeport State Park
A Stargazing Oasis
Bridgeport State Park is out there in the middle of eastern Washington, which is a region of little rain and desert-like conditions. You would think the long drive out this way wouldn’t be worth it when you could easily find something much closer, on the western side of the state, where nature is more lush and welcoming. We didn’t expect anything great, but hey, we’re trying to knock out a visit to every state park, so we still made our way out there. The park greatly exceeded our expectations and is actually much nicer than some of our nearer parks. We loved it!
A Desert Park with Green Scenery
Bridgeport State Park is upstream of the town Bridgeport and the Chief Joseph Dam. The dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and opened in 1979. The Corps and Washington State Parks have a cooperative agreement in where the Corps is involved in park-building. Hence the Corps badge on the park’s signage. The park consists of 748 acres of land and 7,500’ of freshwater shoreline on Rufus Lake, which is part of the Columbia River.
Besides camping, the park also provides 4 miles of paved hiking trails (leading to the dam), boating and beach opportunities, a golf course, playground, and some open grassy areas. For being located in such a dry region we were surprised at how up kept and green all the grass was. This seems to be a recurring theme now, where the parks on the east side of the state are greener than those on the west side. This was also the case at Potholes State Park, which we visited last year.
We arrived a little after the sun went down. We donned our headlamps and quickly set up the tent. All tents are required to be pitched on each site’s sand pad. Although that’s not where we wanted to set up, we can understand now how the grass stays so nice. After all was set up we broke out our chairs and looked up at the sky. The Milky Way was clearly visible, as well as 1,000s (10,000s?) of stars. This had to have been the best night for stargazing that we’ve been a part of.
The next morning we woke early and walked the park, exploring. It’s not an entirely huge park, but it is beautiful. Like we mentioned previously, the grass is top-notch, everywhere you go. Additionally, there are just enough trees to provide plenty of shade where you need it. The park is very clean with maintenance personnel that seemed to always be out and about completing their tasks. There are two restrooms, one at the main campsite, the other at the day-use/beach area.
We returned to our site and set up our hammock. The day was warm, but with the shade, it felt perfect. Throughout the day there were periods where the wind picked up a bit. This just added to the wonderful experience as we chilled out and did nothing. It was perfectly relaxing.
Our campsite, site #13, was probably the best site one could have if tent camping. The back of our site lead out into one of the open grassy areas, this one overlooking the Columbia River. Although this was a common area, it certainly felt like a private extension of our site. No one else ever came through here except for a couple and their dogs, which they let run around for awhile. Fine by us.
In addition to the drive-in tent sites, there are walk-in sites as well. All in all, these walk-in sites appeared like a great second option. The distance from the parking to the sites was minimal and these particular sites were allowed to set their tents up on the grass, along the bank of the river. We may try this next time.
We brought some books along, physical and digital, and planned on chilling in the hammock or chairs and just reading - usually we’d go hiking in the day but it was far too warm to hit the shadeless wilderness - however, this park had something that we never came by at a park before - Wi-Fi! Goodbye books, hello Internet!
Something of interest at this park is the plenty of “haystack rocks” we noticed. At first, they just appear to be random rock piles, like anywhere else. The more you look around, the more you realize these are something unique since they’re everywhere. They’re old remnants of volcanic, basalt formations left behind by the Okanogan Lobe of the continental ice sheet which moved them here from Canada as it made its way south.
The next morning we packed up and began our long drive home. Along the way, we scoped out four other state parks. There’s one thing that all the parks on this trip had in common - they all have spectacular lawns. Wide open areas with lush green grass, paved pathways and the right amount of trees scattered about. If you ever thought heading east to camp was a mistake, think again.
One particular stop we enjoyed on the way home was the Lone Pine - a fruit & espresso place, according to their sign. After walking in we learned it was much more than that. We ordered two veggie sandwiches which were great. The store has a large selection of items ranging from wine to fresh produce to snacks of all kinds. There’s also a relaxing outdoor patio and garden area where we ate our food. If you need a place to stretch your legs and grab a bite, this is it!
The park exceeded our expectations, as well as all other parks in the area we checked out. There were a lot of people here but still a lot of empty sites to camp in. If you’re looking for a wonderful, lesser traveled park, this is a great location. The campsites were spacious between one another, but not quite far enough as we had to deal with a louder family next to us. Of course, it’s always the luck of the draw to who your neighbors will be. They weren’t doing anything obnoxious or blatantly rude, they were just loud.
If you haven’t been out east we’d certainly recommend camping here for at least two nights. With the distance and the above average surroundings, we wished we had time to stay a third night. We’ll plan that out next time.