Big Springs is a small, no fee campground (4 campsites) located about 10 minutes northeast of Deep Creek Campground on FS Road #4270. It is situated in grassy riparian meadows in an open ponderosa pine forest with thinleaf alders lining a small creek. The campground appears to get light useage, at least during the summer and early fall before the main hunting season.
There are several small springs that emerge from the bank on the north side of the creek next to campsite #2. Be sure to filter the water from the springs as it is not potable. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring. A vault toilet is located just uphill to the east of Site #1. Site #1 is large enough to be the site for a larger group. Site #4 has a drive through site suitable for a small to medium-sized trailer or camper. At least in 2016, there was abundant evidence of cattle grazing the meadows in the campground. We had to pry numerous cow pies from the ground in order to create a space to set up tents. We don't know if this is a regular occurence or was an aberration since there was a tree down across one of the perimeter fences which could allow cattle into the campground.
Big Springs Campground would be a great base camp for surrounding the eastern Ochoco National Forest. The diversity of habitats (upland ponderosa pine forest, adjacent scablands, riparian meadows and alder forest along the creek) and prescence of water through the year attract numerous birds and other wildlife from mid-May into late September. There is a potential to view numerous riparian meadow flowers and the adjacent upland scablands should be filled with blooming onions, buckwheats and penstemons from mid-May into late June most years.
For a cross country hike, walk west along the south side of Big Springs Creek from Site #1, crossing the fence on a stump which allows easier crossing at a large waterhole where cattle can cross the creek from north to south. Cross this cattle drive area to the next creek enclosure, and stay to the south side of the fence, heading downhill on cattle path that follows the outside of the fence. After about 2 miles you will arrive at an open area in the canyon (following an old road). Take the left fork of the canyon, still following the creek which should run most of the year. About a quarter mile later, you arrive at Deep Creek. The trail drops about 200' in a little over 2 miles from Big Springs to Deep Creek. It may be prudent to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes in open areas or in riparian vegetation during warm weather near Deep Creek, although the area may be to high for them.
From Prineville, Oregon: Drive east of Prineville on US Highway 26 for 16 miles. Turn right at the signed junction to Walton Lake and Big Summit Prairie (County Road 123). Drive an additional 7 miles or so to an interpretive site on the north side of the road adjacent to Ochoco Forest Campground. This is a good place to use the vault toilet if needed. Potable water is available at Ochoco Forest Campground, although I've heard (but can't confirm) its behind the vault toilet at the interpretive site. Continue east on the paved road to a Y junction from the interpretive site. Take the right fork, which is FS Road 42. Continue uphill on FS Road 42 across a pass and then down across the south edge of Big Summit Prairie for a distance of about 23 miles where you will reach Deep Creek Campground (vault toilets and another spot to obtain potable water). Continue past Deep Creek CG on FS Road 42 for another 5 miles to a junction with FS Road 4270 on the left, which you will turn onto. Drive uphill on FS Road 4270 for 1.5 miles to the west entrance to Big Springs Campground (unsigned in 2016). There is a large, fenced stand of quaking aspens on the left (west) side of the road at this entrance which drops steeply away from the road. If you miss this entrance, you'll come to the signed eastern entrance about one-half mile further east. The campground is barely visible through the trees from FS Road 4270, so it can be hard to miss!
From Paulina, Oregon: Drive east from Paulina on County Road 112 for about 3.5 miles to Beaver Creek Road (County Road 113) on the left. Drive uphill on County Road 113 for about 8 miles to RS Road 42. Continue on FS Road 42 to Six Corners junction (labelled on the Ochoco National Forest map). At this junction, turn left, staying on FS Road 42 for an additional 8 miles. At the junction with FS Road 4270, turn right and drive north for 1.5 miles to the western Big Springs CG entrance as indicated above.
From US Highway 26: Drive US Highway 26 east from Prineville to Mitchell, Oregon. Continue east on US 26 from Mitchell for 13 miles to a junction with FS Road 12 (may be signed for Barnhouse CG) on the right side of the highway. Or drive west on Highway 26 from Dayville, OR for 25 miles to FS Road 12 on the left. Drive uphill to the south for 18 miles to FS Road 4270. Right right and drive west about 8 miles to the signedeastern entrance to Big Springs Campground.
September 24-27, 2016: Big Springs Campground (Ochoco National Forest)