Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

In order to demonstrate some of the design concepts and principles described above it is useful to look at a recent example. Like so much recreation design in recent times it involves major refurbishment and reconstruction rather than a completely new development.

Lost Lake Campground started life a long time ago in 1916. Prior to road access in the early 1920s, people took a train to the village of Dee, and then hiked 13 miles (21km) into Lost Lake. In those days



Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

A design for campsite utilities such as fire equipment, water, litter, grey water and chemical toilet disposal arranged into a neat enclosure provided with a lay-by and surfaced access. Trees and shrubs help to screen it, although the tidy design would also work in open sites.


people sometimes drove cars, but more often they rode horses into the forest. As the location was relatively near the city of Portland with a growing urban population, and as road access improved, popular access to the recently established National Forest was in quite high demand. The campground originally comprised an access road with some fairly primitive sites for backwoods-type camping. Fishing and boating on the lake provided the main attraction to both day visitors and campers.

Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

Some spur layouts to permit camping by people with disabilities:

(a) A design for a campsite in a highly developed area. (b) A design for a wilder, remoter area with vehicle


As time went on use gradually expanded. Trailer caravans and RVs were introduced in the 1960s, and the number of pitches gradually grew. Nothing was consciously designed. Available areas away from the roads were developed into parking spurs with little thought for site degradation. The east lakeshore became overdeveloped and worn out by the early 1980s, with camping extending all along it. There were 87 pitches with still rising demand, while the concessionary site operator wanted more capacity to give better viability. As well as the camper use there was increasing day visitor demand, which was mixed into the site and which needed some management. The US Forest Service realized that a major refurbishment was overdue, and a team of landscape architects and other Forest Service staff were appointed to the task.

The extent of the campground is limited. It is a generally forested area occupying a bench between Lost Lake and a volcanic cone (Lost Lake Butte). With variable terrain but a general 13% side slope the linear nature of the site parallel to the lakeshore provided challenges to the designers. The only really flat area is heavily forested with old growth cedar and fir, wet and unsuitable for development. Much of the area, particularly at lower levels, is fragile and easily eroded.

A survey of the site and an analysis of constraints and opportunities led to the crucial design decision to separate day use, concentrated on the lakeshore, from the camping by moving much of the latter up the slope away from the most fragile areas, which would be subsequently restored with native vegetation. The survey identified a paved, under-utilized logging road running along the slope some way above the original campground. This offered an opportunity to become the new main access road from which other loops for camping could be developed where the terrain and drainage permitted.

The design concept separated car-accessed tent camping from trailers and RVs, and these from walk – in or cycle-in camping. Loops were then designed for the different requirements and camping spurs fitted along each of them. The remoter area chosen to be developed was naturally more resilient than the original area but nevertheless drainage had to be carefully developed. To avoid disrupting the natural drainage pattern some of the roads were constructed on a permeable base on top of which was placed a filter fabric overlaid with gravel and asphalt. Thus the water is able to percolate beneath the roads without having to be collected in ditches and culverted under them. This allows downslope trees to receive the same water as before construction.

A new water supply also had to be provided. The pipe layout generally follows the road system. Water is pumped from the lake, filtered and stored in a tank above the campground. Sewage disposal utilizes state-of-the-art SST facilities (sweet smelling toilets). These are simple vault toilets in which waste is collected in a holding tank, later being pumped into a ‘honey’ lorry for transport to the municipal treatment plant 24 miles (38km) away.

As the access loops had to run parallel with the contours as far as possible, most of the camping spurs had to be built by cutting into or filling out the side slopes. Once the road alignments were marked out on the ground the designers identified each spur on the ground so that the best fit into the landscape could be achieved. If the slope was too steep for a reverse-in spur a pull-through one parallel to the road was used. Terracing retained with local rock and horizontal logs was used to reduce cut or fill for the tent bases and fireplace areas. For barrier-free spurs the flattest sites were chosen with the easiest grades. The goal was to have 25% of campsites meeting barrier-free standards. Each spur site was carefully designed with details of retaining rockwork, paths and steps, trees and existing logs to be retained and fireplaces agreed before construction took place. Use areas were surfaced with compacted, fine gravel to prevent soil erosion.

Once the design for the layout was finalized the toilets were located, a path network for campers to the lake was fitted in, and a vehicle and pedestrian sign layout was executed to ensure that the minimum number of signs was used for the needs of the site. Signs were professionally designed, and constructed as routed letters in solid redwood panels, selected for their visual qualities and long life.

As well as the camp area construction the abandoned spurs and access roads were restored and re-vegetated using plants native to the site. Plants were salvaged from areas to be developed and stored on site in special ‘capillary’ beds. Other plants were propagated from cuttings or seed. On the day-use area the eroding lakeshore was stabilized, along with other improvement measures. The design was constructed over several phases as new areas were opened and old ones were removed and re-vegetated. In 1994 the site was commended by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Updated: October 10, 2015 — 11:03 pm