Life jackets and water safety

Cormorants on East Sand Island


Life jackets are available during the summer months at certain sites. Visit project sites or contact parks for detailed dates of operation. 

Life jackets are available on a first come, first serve basis.

For a list of life jacket loaner stations, click here.

Visit our water safety page for more safety tips.

Visit our water safety page for more information.
Visit our water safety page for more information.

Rogue River Basin recreation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation. Portland District's recreation sites allow visitors of all ages to enjoy biking, hiking, boating, fishing, camping, hunting, windsurfing and more. Whatever your favorite outdoor activity, one thing is certain: recreation can enrich your life. Visit one of our recreation areas to connect with nature and create unforgettable memories. With more than 90 percent of our recreation areas located within 50 miles of a city or town, there is likely to be a Corps site near you. 



We invite you to visit us at one of our Rogue River Basin, Oregon locations: ApplegateElk Creek or Lost Creek

Applegate recreation

Applegate Reservoir is 988 acres in size and extends to the California border. A hiking trail follows the 18-mile shoreline. Motorcycles are permitted only on the trail leading to Stein Butte. Horses are permitted on the Stein Butte, Collings Mountain and Da-Ku-Be-Te-De trails. Paved trails and other barrier-free facilities are provided at the day use areas so that they may be enjoyed by all visitors. 

Development at most of the recreation sites is minimal and most of the lakeshore is maintained in a natural state. To help preserve its rustic nature, a 10-mph speed limit for all boats is in effect. For information on reservoir elevation, flow and temperature report: 800-472-2434.

Boating: There is one year-round boat ramp at Copper, near Watkins Campground on the southwest shore. A ramp east of the dam near French Gulch Campground Boat Ramp is usually used when the water is low.

Camping: The Forest Service operates several campgrounds at Applegate: Carberry CampgroundFrench Gulch CampgroundHarr Point Campground, Hart-Tish Campground, Latgawa Campground, Tipsu Tyee Campground and Watkins Campground.

Day-use parks: Located in southwest Oregon in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Hart-Tish Park, managed by the Forest Service, is surrounded by a variety of landscapes, boasting nearby volcanic peaks, rivers and old-growth forests. Hart-Tish Park offers several acres of beautifully groomed lawn sloping down to the shores of Applegate Lake. Visitors can spot the peaks of the majestic Red Buttes Wilderness while looking south over the lake.

Fishing: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie and rainbow trout are some fish that can be caught.

Hiking: The Forest Service manages the following trails: Collings Mountain Trail, the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail, the Grouse Loop Trail, the Payette Trail.

Recreation facilities at Applegate are operated by the U.S. Forest Service. For more information about these locations, contact the Star Ranger Station, 6914 Upper Applegate Rd., Jacksonville, Ore. 97530, (541) 899-3800.

Elk Creek recreation

Elk Creek is a tributary of the Rogue River, about 25 miles northeast of Medford, Ore. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and hunting in the nine-plus miles of open lands that are Elk Creek. There are no developed recreation facilities at Elk Creek and the area is closed to motorized vehicles. 

Visitors can use the old county road to relax near deep pools, hike through grass fields, or sit under a giant Ponderosa and watch for the variety of wildlife common to Elk Creek.

Operating hours: Dawn to dusk

Hunting: Portions of the Elk Creek Project are open to hunting, as regulated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. For information on hunting in this area, please visit the Dixon Unit 22 Web page.

Lost Creek Lake is on the Rogue River, about 28 northeast of Medford, Oregon.

Lost Creek and Jess Dam recreation

** Attention ** The courtesy dock at the Takelma boat ramp is out of service indefinitely. Courtesy docks are available at the Stewart Park Boat Ramp. 

River’s Edge Park (Corps-operated), just downriver from William L. Jess Dam, is a great place to host a family get-together, summer picnic or birthday party. The park's group pavilion is available by reservation from Memorial Day to Labor Day; each year's reservations are accepted starting Jan. 1. Availability is first-come, first-served; weddings are allowed with a permit. Reserve the group pavilion by calling 541-878-2255 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by emailing:

McGregor Park is located on State Highway 62, the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, near Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery. Dedicated in July 1977, McGregor Park was specifically designed for the convenience of visitors with disabilities. Restrooms and trash service enhance the picnic tables and grills scattered throughout the park. An interpretive trail is a short walk from the visitor center, with information about local river ecology and all the wildlife, insects, birds and plants that rely on the waterway. The Visitor Center at McGregor Park is closed.  For more information, contact the Rogue River Basin Project Office at 541-878-2255 or email

Joseph Stewart County Park (Jackson County Parks operated) is surrounded by wildlife, large conifer trees and mountains. Hike or bike the 11-mile trail system through the forest with year-round streams and wildlife viewing. Take a swim in cool mountain water, rent a boat from the marina, or troll the 10-mile lake for trout and bass. If you prefer, bring your own boat and water skis. Open from March 1 through Oct. 31. For more information, visit Jackson County Parks website at

Life jacket loaner stations: Life jackets are available seasonally (i.e., during summer months) at the Joseph H. Stewart State Park boat ramp and the Takelma Park boat ramp. Life jackets are available on a first come, first serve basis. 

Rules, policies and related information

Reserving campsites: Search for and reserve available campsites at or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Campsites can be reserved up to 180 days in advance. Note: not all recreation sites take reservations.

Hunting guidelines: All rules and regulations for the public use of Corps lands are described in Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327. The following document provides more detailed information specific to hunting on Corps lands within the Portland District. Hunters should be aware that some of the lands surrounding Corps reservoirs are managed by other County, State, and Federal agencies and different guidelines may apply. Hunters are responsible for recognizing private land boundaries and should not hunt on private land without permission of the landowner.

Information about hunting at Applegate project should be obtained from local U.S. Forest Service offices. Rifle hunting is allowed in designated areas at Elk Creek and Lost Creek reservoir, with restrictions.

Willamette Valley Hunting Guidelines and Maps

Geocaching policy: In general, geocaching can be a fun and appropriate recreational activity at Corps projects, provided the security or missions of the project are not compromised. It provides an opportunity for positive interactions and partnerships with local groups involved in this activity. Monitoring of web sites, communication and participation with these groups can form healthy relationships with benefits to all involved. Working with these groups can prevent problems and promote the Corps as a willing partner. Regulation should be based on common-sense needs of specific projects or areas, with a minimal permitting burden on the recreating public. Read more about the policy here.

Anchor safely: These five steps will help you to anchor safely:

  1. Use anchor lines that are 5-7 times the depth of the water.

    1. Use a float for the anchor line to serve as a buffer and to reduce the risk of getting the anchor line tangled in the propeller.

    2. Lower, do not throw, the anchor to avoid tangles in the line.

    3. Anchor only off the point of the bow. Anchoring off the stern or the side will capsize your boat.

  2. Power upstream of anchor before retrieving it. Maintain position in line with the flow of the current while retrieving anchor. Turning cross-wise to the current increases the risk of capsizing.

  3. Rivers can become turbulent with little or no warning. You are advised to wear a Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device at all times. Also, take precautions against hypothermia. River temperatures can range from 70 degrees in the summer to near freezing during the winter.

  4. River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel.

  5. Five blasts of the horn signify danger, and you must take action to avoid that danger.

For more tips, visit the Corps of Engineers National Water Safety website. Click here for a print version of this information.

Fee collection and comparison: Day-use fees, including boat ramp and dump station fees, will be collected while parks are available for camping. No fees are collected during park closure dates. Some boat ramps outside fee campgrounds will charge a $5 launch fee per day, which is valid at any Corps-managed recreation site for day it was purchased.

All fees have been set to maintain comparable fee schedules with other federal, state, county and private campgrounds. All fees meet the requirements set in Engineering Publication 1130-2-550. Fee comparability within the same state and district is outlined in Paragraph 9 of EP 1130-2-550.

Seaplanes on Corps lakes: Seaplanes may be operated seven days a week between sunrise and sunset at all Portland District lakes with the exception of Big Cliff, Applegate and Willow Creek lakes. Once on the water seaplanes shall be considered powerboats and must be operated in accordance with marine rules of the road. Seaplanes in the water may taxi to any area of the lake subject to the powerboating restrictions for those lakes. For more information, see: Seaplane operations at Corps of Engineers lakes.

Volunteering: If you're enthusiastic about the outdoors, enjoy meeting new people and want to protect parks, then sign up to be a volunteer! Click here for a listing of current volunteer opportunities at Portland District Park and Corps sites across the country.

Drone policy: For both safety and security reasons, the operation of aircraft, including drones (formally known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems) may not be operated within 1,000 feet of operational areas at Corps projects. This includes land with structures such as dams.

Weather and water levels: The Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service and other agencies cooperatively gather and analyze data for current and projected future reservoir and river level information. Know before you go!

Reservoir and water levels

Northwest River Forecast Center

National Weather Service

Questions about any guidelines should be directed to:

Bonneville Lock and Dam, 541-374-8344

The Dalles Lock and Dam, 541-506-8475

John Day Lock and Dam, 541-739-1135

Rogue River Basin Project, 541-878-2255

Willamette Valley Projects, 541-942-5631