You don't have to be a Plains Indian living in the 19th century to be able to sleep in a tipi. Just make a reservation to stay at one of the two tipis available at an Oregon State Park in central Oregon.
Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site
The 31 campsites are first-come, first-served and have electric and water. Hot showers, flush toilets, ice, firewood, and an RV dump station are available.
Some campers use the park as a base to visit local attractions: Kam Wah Chung Museum in John Day (not to be missed!), the John Day Fossil Beds, Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area, and bird-watching at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
The park is named for local rancher Clyde Holliday who came to Grant County in the 1940s and established a logging operation. He then branched out into cattle ranching. Holliday and his wife Earlene donated the land that eventually became part of the Oregon State Parks system. An online brochure with a site map and descriptions of things to see and do nearby is a good resource to help plan a visit.
My wife and I have camped in many places, but we'd never slept inside a tipi before. We made our reservations six months in advance to be sure we'd have the opportunity during our vacation road trip to eastern Oregon.
There are two tipis available. Parking is about one hundred yards away, but there is a wagon available to help haul camping gear to the site. Two wooden doors open up access to the interior. Unlike the Indians, we had a concrete floor, electrical outlet, small space heater, bench, and sleeping mats. The opening at the top provided some natural light. We were warned by the camp host to sleep along the edges in case of rain.
Our patio area was fenced with brick pavers and a fire ring. Having grown weary over the years of starting fires and battling smoke, we now use a portable propane fire ring to enjoy a hassle free campfire and even cook on it if we don't want to use our camp stove.
We slept comfortably for two nights, lulled to sleep by the sound of the nearby John Day River flowing by. It was bittersweet having to leave to journey on to our next destination, but we know that we can return the next time we're in central Oregon.
Day Use Area
Besides camping, the Park has a large day use area with a well-maintained stretch of lawn, shaded by tall cottonwood trees and bordered by the John Day River to the south. It's a convenient rest stop and picnic location for travelers on Highway 26 and popular with local residents for family reunions and other celebrations.
Clyde Holliday State Park is located 1 mile east of Mount Vernon, on US Highway 26, on the right, and 7 miles west of John Day on US Highway 26 on the left.