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Indian Mary Park (Merlin, Oregon)

September 23rd, 2008 · by Cyndi · 5 Comments

The first overnight stop on our road trip from Petaluma, California to Vancouver, Canada, was in Southern Oregon at the Indian Mary Campground in Merlin. By Google Maps, it’s 410 miles and a 6:30 hour drive. With extensive stops, it was more like 9 or 10 hours.

Indian Mary Park
Uninc Josephine County, Oregon
7100 Merlin Galice Rd, Merlin OR 97532
(541) 474-5285
Connected to the Oregon State Park system but run separately, through the county.

Directions: Take I-5 North or South to Exit 61. Go under the freeway and turn left on Merlin Galice Road, which turns into Merlin Road, for about 3.5 miles. Merlin Road turns slightly left and becomes Galice Road.  Continue another 7 miles to the Park entrance on the right.

A friend of ours goes there every year with a large organization that reserves a block of spots near the Rouge River and provides all the meals.  And for that sort of trip, this place would be awesome.  The river is gorgeous and the park has a communal feel because all the sites are very close together.

Miriam at the Indian Mary boat launch

Miriam at the Indian Mary boat launch

Unfortunately, we weren’t with a group and the closeness of the campsites was overwhelming.

Our tent in the middle of several campsites

Our tent in the middle of several campsites

That’s us in the middle with an RV to the far left, an empty site to the immediate left, three sites behind us, and one RV to the right.

Between the stifling heat (98 degrees in early evening) and being surrounded by cigarette smokers, I ended up with a fall down asthma attack in the center grassy area at the front of the picture (beyond it is the bathrooms) while trying to escape the smoke.  I had my oxygen tank but not my inhaler and Michael was off with Miriam at the playground.

Fortunately, I was able to call for help and, after several tries, some folks (including a paramedic) heard me and got my inhaler and my family.  Miriam cared less about the fact that mommy was sick than about the fun of getting to ride in the park’s golf cart.  The smokers near to us were very kind and all said they wouldn’t smoke near us anymore.  And they didn’t.  But the damage was done.  I was fragile over the next couple of days and had trouble walking any distance.

Before the attack, we managed to get our borrowed tent up (first time since the dry run at home).  This was my first time dealing with a tent, or camping at all, in over 20 years.  Michael had never done real camping.  It was Miriam’s first time.  Not the greatest (re)introduction.

It only took us half an hour to get this baby up

It only took us half an hour to get this baby up

The night went more smoothly.  I had chosen an RV site vs a plain tent site because the former had electrical hookups and water and we had an electric cooler.  The tent sites weren’t very different or less crowded.

Our campsite

Our campsite

We ate from the cooler, went to bed, roasted, took off the rain flap, roasted slightly less, tried to block out the partying around us, and fell asleep mostly hating the place.

Then it was morning.

Morning at Indian Mary is magical.  Everyone else was asleep, the air was cool, and Miriam wanted to see the river.

Rouge River in early morning

Rouge River in early morning

Once we were away from the campsites, the air at the park was very clean and fresh.  They don’t use pesticide at the park and they only use herbicide once in a while at the boat launch (most recently 3 or so months earlier).  I walked slowly because my legs were still unsteady and my lungs not at full capacity.  We made our way to the top of the riverbank, where Miriam, naturally, had to stop for some blackberries.

Miriam picking blackberries along the Rouge River

Miriam picking blackberries along the Rouge River

Then to the boat launch where she expressed her deep down desire to go fishing (one she has repeated dozens of times since…some day little one).

Miriam for a morning walk and yoga pose in her jammies

Miriam for a morning walk and yoga pose in her jammies

Then of course we had to make our way to the playground, where her visit the day before had been cut short.  We couldn’t stay long because the other campers were waking up and the cigarette smoke began to waft over.

Children's playground at Indian Mary Park

Children's playground at Indian Mary Park

Unless I came with a very large, smoke and bug-spray-free, group, I can’t see myself returning.  As solo campers who wanted to sleep early and weren’t interested in socializing (drinking beer around the campfire with strangers), this was completely the wrong spot.  For someone with asthma and MCS, it was a nightmare.

Nominally, the park is pretty safe.  No pesticides, almost no herbicide, no air freshener in the bathrooms (they told me they use strong smelling cleaning products but we must have been there between cleanings because it wasn’t a problem).

The bathrooms have flush toilets and small shower stalls with tiny changing areas.

There is the playground for the kids plus lots of flat grassy areas, a Frisbee (disc) golf course, volleyball, horseshoes, and a place to boat and fish.  We were there on a Thursday night in mid-August so there were plenty of free spaces, though it was mostly full.  The better sites were of course taken.

Take a look on the map.  We were in site 74.  If I went again with a child, I’d want site 46 (preferably the entire surrounding chunk).  The map is somewhat misleading because those distances are actually quite close (it’s also not entirely to scale).  Many other park maps look similar on paper but they fit half as many campsites in the same space.  From us in 74 to the smokers/partiers in 85 was about 20 feet.  You can see their white car behind and to the left of us in the two site pictures above.

We packed up and got on the road by mid-morning.  On to another two nights of camping.


Categories: Campgrounds · Family Life · Health · Parks · Picnics · Places to Go · Playgrounds · Travel
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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 | Norwitz Notions // Sep 24, 2008 at 11:43 am

    […] Get emails telling you when there is a new post Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner ← Indian Mary Park (Merlin, Oregon) […]

  • 2 Joel Carsten // Jul 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    i was at the park when i was 16 now i am 52 and would love to visit soon i just loved it there it was so pretty keep it going

  • 3 Stephanie B // Apr 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Sucks you had such a horrible time at Indian Mary. It is without a doubt the most wonderful place to camp. I don’t know why anyone would go there if they were not planning on rafting. The rogue river is a delightful place to spend your afternoon basking in the sun. You cannot expect people to not smoke when u are staying outdoors, and no I do not smoke. You have to be tolerable or don’t go at all.

  • 4 admin // Apr 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Thanks for your comments, Stephanie. We went because our friend (see top of article) was adamant that it was the best place ever. For a large group, with river activities planned, and no extreme smoke sensitivities, it would be.

    As my experience illustrates, being outdoors doesn’t save you from secondhand smoke. I have had asthma attacks outside from cigarettes more times than I can count, and I’m really careful (and don’t go to most outdoor events).

    California is currently considering a ban on smoking in state parks (mostly because of the cleanup issues). I would much rather see parks with well-marked, easily accessible smoking areas, downwind (when possible) and far from where nonsmokers need to go to get around. In my experience, total bans get ignored but if smokers have a place to smoke, they are usually respectful.


  • 5 Nona // Aug 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Thank goodness smoking is not allowed in any of the state campgrounds in Oregon. I don’t understand why anyone would tell someone with a medical condition to be tolerant of others who are practicing an unsafe habit that can affect everyone around them, to be tolerant or just not go. Give me a break! I should stay home if I don’t want to take the chance of someone’s mindless obsession to slowly kill themselves affects me or their lack of knowledge about the harm to all of us when harmful chemicals are used as cleaning solutions. Please wake up.

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