Decades old stopover for hikers and horseback riders alike gets new signage, lot arrangements and horse corrals
YACOLT — Nestled amongst the beautiful Tarbell Mountain trails and the looming peaks of Silver Star, there lies the little known haven that is Rock Creek Horse Camp. Volunteers love the spot so much, they banded together to give the site a major upgrade.
Members of several groups including the Washington Trail Riders Association came together to purchase and install new steel horse corrals and weld them together for permanent installation.
They upgraded, and replaced the existing corral locations; which were wooden and rotting from age. The group also helped rearrange campsites for the larger vehicles and trailers many riders use nowadays.
The project was completed by all volunteers, since the site is owned by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who readily welcomes volunteer workers. Funding for the project was provided through several grants and donations from the community.
“They were wooden stalls and they’d been here probably since day one, some of them and, and they were getting pretty rotten and shaky,” said Jim Anderson from Back Country Horsemen of Washington, (BCHW) who helped with the project. “It used to get a lot of use early on when they first built it, and it’s kind of tapered off. I think because of the type of vehicles people use and that sort of thing. So that’s why we’re trying to upgrade the camp slowly so it will accommodate the bigger rigs.”
The camp is mostly for stock owners, or horse owners and equine users, but also has some recreational camping spots. The entire site is still free for use. Many people volunteered countless hours and donated funds to construct stock camps to ensure that stock owners have a place to recreate and trails to ride. Land managers, under pressure from non-stock recreationists, have allowed non-stock users into stock camps, which can lead to user conflict.
One way the equine groups hope to ensure more stock users occupy the horse camps is to ensure that the camps are equipped to handle the front country users with their self-contained living units. This means adequate parking sites for large, living quarter type trailers and safe corrals or highlines.
When they requested funding, the groups did so specifically to improve camp facilities for stock use at the Rock Creek Horse Camp, which is located within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Yacolt. This campground was built in 1971, and is the oldest equine campground in southwest Washington.
The site offers 16 stock sites and seven tent sites. Rock Creek is a popular place for families to camp and ride. Within 30 miles of civilization and services, it has that outdoor flavor enjoyed by youth and seniors.
“It means a lot because it’s close to home, I can drive here in about 45 minutes, have some excellent trails to ride on. Beautiful scenery, great place to camp,” Anderson said. “So, I mean, it means a lot, especially in this day and age when gasoline is getting expensive again, and that sort of thing. So it’s nice to have a nice area and a nice facility that’s close to home.”
The Washington Trail Riders Association contributed to this report.