Puma Campground – Forest Service

Several years ago, we discovered the Fall Creek area near Springfield, Oregon. A beautiful creek that winds up into the forest for miles, packed with swimming holes, picnic areas, hiking trails, and more. There are several campgrounds, but since it’s only 40 minutes from our house, we never stayed overnight.

Until now. There’s a particular part of the creek that we’ve come to love, and the access is through Puma Campground. So this year, we thought, why not go up and stay for a few days?

Puma Campground, Oregon

Puma Campground is a first-come-first-served campground, and there’s no way to know ahead of time if there’s space. But we spoke to the campground host (at Bedrock Campground, 2 miles away, the host is at Site #22) and he said there are usually spots available at Puma. It’s the last campground on the road, so it fills up last. Especially midweek, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a spot. Our first night there, a Tuesday, we shared it with two other campers. The second night we were the only ones.

Puma has 11 spaces. Most of them can accommodate a camper or small RV. Several are wheelchair-accessible.

In a nutshell…

Puma Campground map

Sites 1, 2, 3 – very small sites (not even sure #2 can accommodate a tent), ideal for pulling in a camper and using it as a jump-off for fishing or other activities

Site 4 – Good for tent or camper

Site 5 – pull-thru site, has a steep trail leading to creek

Site 6 – on the creek, very steep trail down to water, good swimming hole, not wheelchair accessible

Site 7 – our site–see our full review below, trail to water with steep access, campsite is wheelchair accessible with an accessible picnic table

Site 8 – large site, multifamily, less privacy

Site 9 – a primo site, could easily set up 8+ tents or pull in a camper, river access is good, no swimming hole but lots of bedrock places to play, good privacy (at least from other campsites)

Site 10 – little privacy since the water pump is at the edge of the campsite

Site 11 – a fun little site with a pull-through for vehicles. Best feature: a hidden glen for tents.

 

Swimming Hole

I may kick myself for this, but…our very favorite spot on Fall Creek is the swimming hole off site #7 in Puma Campground. We’ve gone there several times and it’s now our only destination on the creek. It’s PERFECT for families, even with very young kids. There’s a nice swimming hole for older kids and adults, but a rocky beach perfect for little ones. The creek flow is slow here, so no fear of anything floating downriver and getting lost. You can hunt for crawdads, shiny rocks, or itty bitty fish. It’s just a fun place to spend a hot summer afternoon.

Those underwater ledges in the background are perfect for jumping off of. The water there is about 4.5 feet deep and the bottom is smooth and clean. An adult can easily touch, but kids can safely cannonball into the water.

 

Swimming at Puma Campground, Fall Creek, Oregon
If you’re willing to schlep pool toys down the steep bank, then this is a great spot to use them.

 

It’s hard to show depth, but this is an example of the steep path down to the river. This is the final 10 feet and you’ll need that rope. However, the kids handled it just fine (over and over) and the adults managed it with kids, pool toys, etc in one arm.

Our goal for the trip was to score campsite #7, and we were thrilled to see it was empty. It’s across from the bathroom with an occasional eau de toilette smell, but with kids, having it close is pretty nice. Trash service is also nearby, and the water pump is just a short walk away. There are good trees for stringing up a clothesline (but sadly, not for a hammock) and a perfect tent site. Privacy is good with lots of underbrush between sites.

Camping with kids at Puma Campground, Oregon
Creek access is beyond our clothesline. Water isn’t so close, though, that I worried for the kids’ safety. It’s a short hike beyond the campsite. Do keep little ones close, but you don’t have to worry about them falling in right at the campsite.

The campsite host (stationed at Bedrock) said Puma is the most family-friendly campground. Apparently, nearby Bedrock has a reputation with college-aged campers, and that’s why a camp host is stationed there. Puma, in contrast, is quiet and well-suited for children.

We also hiked to Slick Creek cave while we were at Puma. I’ll put that in another post for day users who only want to come in and do the hike. But rest assured, there may not be showers or playgrounds, but Puma has a lot to offer and you won’t be bored!

 

Cost per night: $15, first come-first served
Amenities: pit toilet, fire ring, picnic table, potable water, garbage service
Our kids ages at the time of visit: 11, 6, 3, and 5 months
Activities: hiking trails, an interpretive site at a cave, swimming holes, fishing
Nearest town: Lowell is 17 miles away, with gas and convenience stores