Camp Sherman
by Michele Morseth

Camp Sherman, an early settlement in Sisters Country, is an unincorporated town situated in Jefferson County. By road it is closer to Deschutes Country and Sisters. The country seat in Madras, is 60 miles away by road while only 26 miles over the mountains. At one time, a rough county road lead to Madras. By 1927 the new Metolius River Market Road allowed more direct travel between Sisters and Camp Sherman. This road became Highway 20.

Cabins nestled amid tall pines, idyllic and rustic resorts, the Metolius River bubbling and spilling over its rocky bed—the water so clear it leaves little to the imagination, a lush mix of desert, alpine, and riparian vegetation, and the Camp Sherman Store—these things could be said to characterize Camp Sherman. With double the rainfall of the high desert to the east, Camp Sherman provides an oasis in the high desert of Sisters Country. The vegetation mix is due to rainfall near the level of Portland and Salem, many springs and seeps, and the river itself. While summers are hot, the valley is refreshing; but fog and drizzle can persist during winter months, when to the east, the sun shines. The residents, while perhaps overrun by tourists in summer, have always maintained a sense of community and appreciation of the area’s natural beauty. In the early days, youngsters followed community dances by a nighttime trek up Black Butte to watch the sunrise.

The Metolius valley attracted both settlers and tourists. By 1881 five homesteading families were on the upper Metolius: Mitchell Arnold, at the headwaters of the Metolius; Robert Hoover, at the south fork of Lake Creek; William Smith, on Spring Creek; Joseph Davis; and John Bamford, on Jack Creek and the trail to Warm Springs Agency. David and Margaret Allingham settled on the river downstream from Camp Sherman in 1885. Gardens, corrals, and barns were built next to small homes. In 1893 however, President Glover Cleveland, created the Cascade Forest Reserve, ending the homestead era on the Metolius.

Resorts were an early feature in the valley. The Heising bought land in 1908 and began the first resort on the Metolius. By 1914 the area was known for its beauty, fishing, and healthy living. Tourists came to visit and bought land. In 1916, the US Forest Service began leasing lands along the Metolius River for summer homes. A trail along the river preserved the riverfront for tourists and management guidelines help preserve a rustic, natural feel of the area. The Hansen’s resort started in 1921 with tents and then in 1924 they built cabins and, to make a swimming hole, dammed the creek. The dam blocked passage of sockeye salmon to the upper reaches of the Metolius. Hansen’s had horses and then built a five-hole golf course. In 1935 Hanson’s became Lake Creek Lodge resort, which is still in operation. The House on the Metolius, another landmark, was started by Eleanor Bechen in the 1940s.

The store and gas station in Camp Sherman has been a central feature since before 1917 when Dick Fuller began selling merchandise from a canvas tent. In 1917 Frank Leithauser built a wooden structure which Ross Ornduff replaced with the present store in 1922. He brought goods and mail from Sisters. Beginning in 1925 Rod and Evelyn Foster operated the store and gas station. Over the years, owners have retained the old-time feel of the store, which retains the old dry goods store feel with an inventory of food, fishing supplies, household goods, and souvenirs.

The Camp Sherman area has been shaped by public works projects. For nearly a decade starting in 1933, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp along the Metolius housed workers who built roads, removed timber, strung telephone wires, and improved the forest camp at Suttle Lake. They also worked on developing the campgrounds along the Metolius and part of the cultural landscape they created remains today.

A large fish hatchery started by the State Game Commissions and now run by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lies a few miles downriver from Camp Sherman. In people’s imagination for decades, Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery was finally built in the 1940s. It has been drawing hundreds or thousands of people each summer to see rainbow, Eastern brook, and German brown trout. Today kokanee, and Atlantic salmon are cultivated that eventually will be transferred to the lakes and streams in an effort to return salmon to Central Oregon’s waters.


Copyright © 2006 Sisters Country Historical Society