Few equestrians have ever stayed at Swamp Wells Horse Camp, which is a rotten shame. Yes, you have to drive 14 miles on a washboard road to get there. And yes, the camp's stock water dries up in the summer, so you'll need to bring your own. But here are 10 powerful reasons why you ought to give this underutilized horse camp a try.
Reason 1: The Camping is Free
Swamp Wells has corrals, a vault toilet, and manure bins, but no stock water.
Reason 2: Miles and Miles of Trail
The Swamp Wells trail network is huge with well over 70 miles of wonderful non-motorized trails that extend from the outskirts of Bend all the way to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Reason 3: No Crowds
While the northern part of the Swamp Wells trail system near the Horse Butte Trailhead tends to be overrun with mountain bikes, the southern end gets low to moderate use. The trails near Swamp Wells Horse Camp offer solitude: you may ride all day without seeing another person.
Reason 4: The Trails are Delightful
The terrain is horse friendly, the open ponderosa and lodgepole pine forest is beautiful, the footing is excellent, and the views are panoramic. For instance:
Reason 5: Fuzztail Butte
You can ride a short but scenic 4.5-mile loop that takes you to the top of Fuzztail Butte, a small cinder cone with a 360-degree view.
Reason 6: Arnold Ice Cave Loop
You can do a 13-mile loop to Arnold Ice Cave, Charcoal Cave, and several other caves that were formed when the roofs of lava tubes partially collapsed, revealing the caverns beneath.
Reason 7: Kelsey Butte Loop
Another greaet ride takes over the flank of Kelsey Butte, where you’ll have panoramic views west to the Cascade Range and north to Bend and beyond.
Reason 8: Newberry Crater
You can ride to the rim of Newberry Crater and see East Lake and Paulina Lake below you, Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow straight ahead of you, and the snow-capped Cascades on the western horizon.
Reason 9: Endurance Opportunities
If you like long-distance rides, you can do several 20-mile loops out of Swamp Wells.
Reason 10: Many More Options
If you're interested in exploring, the Swamp Wells area is laced with dirt roads that offer great footing and plenty of opportunities to go touring on your own.
To sum up, Swamp Wells Horse Camp offers wonderful riding without the crowds, it's free, and it's all only a few miles from Bend. So bring some stock water and make the trek. It’s worth it!
The Swamp Wells trails are covered in more detail in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.