Welcome to our (very personal) reviews of the campsites we have visited. If you arrived here from a link on our travel blog, Semi-True Tales of Our Life On the Road, you can click here to read all of our campground reviews.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Our Opinion: Rave. This is our favorite urban dry camping site.

Parked along the river at the back of the Valley River CenterDate of Stay: October 7 and 8, 2009. This is our 5th stay here.

Weather During Stay: Beautiful. Highs in the low 70’s. Low’s around 50.

Sites: No developed sites. This is dry camping on asphalt, nestled up against a bike trail and the Willamette River in a far corner of a shopping center parking lot (Valley River Center).

Rate: Free. 2-night limit, can be extended by speaking with security.

Phone/radio/TV: Excellent Verizon phone and aircard reception. No obstructions for TV satellite. We didn’t put up the antenna, but there are no doubt some local stations available. NPR on 89.7 (and probably others).

View to the south, towards the shopping center Elevation/Landscape/Terrain: Elevation is 430 feet. View is of trees, the wide Willamette River, bikers, walkers, skaters, and joggers on the multi-use trail, and a wide expanse of parking lot between you and the shopping mall parking (this photo).

Lighting/Noise: Lights along the trail and in the parking lot illuminate the sides of the RV at night, so choose your spot with that in mind. Noise during the day from cars in the parking lot, and the conversations of passers-by on the trail. Quiet at night, until the occasional footfalls of the early joggers begin at dawn.

Favorite Sites: We like to park facing west, next to the curb along the river or, in colder weather, facing south along the curb on the west of the lot. Shopping center regulations ask that you park in the northwest corner of the parking lot, which is the least used section of the lot.

Scenes from within 1/4 mile of the drycamping areaHiking/Walking: Can’t be beat. Green space laced with a paved trail follows both sides of the river. A four-mile loop crosses the river on two pedestrian bridges (one is about 50 yards away for where we park), or cross the river and head east to the university, past a community garden and a large rose garden in the parkway. Beautiful in all directions. Photos in this collage were taken during a springtime visit, within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of our parking spot.
Comments: We love Eugene, and this convenient, free parking is a plus. Jacks and slides allowed. The parking lot is patrolled by friendly security personnel, who will stop by to register your rig. They have a list of “regulations”, apparently designed to be able to give the heave-ho to those who might take advantage of the shopping center’s tolerant attitude. After spending two nights here on one visit, we had an appointment for minor repairs in Junction City, so spoke with the security guard about the possibility of returning afterwards for one more night if necessary. Answer: “no problem“. Eugene has both a Costco and a Trader Joe’s, a short drive from VRC. A few chain restaurants are within walking distance; several good restaurants in downtown Eugene.

VRC RV Overnight Parking Guidelilnes Directions: From I-5 (north or south), take exit 195 to head west on the Beltline Highway. After a few miles, exit to head south on the Delta Highway (I think there is a sign for “Valley River Center”). Head south a mile or two to Valley River Center Road and go west. At the intersection with Goodpasture Island Road (there is a Red Robin on the left and a Marie Callendars on the right), turn left. Turn right at the next road (not the parking lot driveway) and head towards the river, passing the small (now apparently defunct) car dealership on the right. At the dead-end (stop sign), turn right and find a place to park along the curb next to the bike trail or the field.
You can find this on Streets and Trips by looking for “Valley River Center, Eugene, OR”. I imagine the same is true of GPS systems. 


Lynn said...

Here I am, a native of the Eugene area, and I never knew you could camp at VRC! I'll look more closely at the area back by the river!


Laurie and Odel said...

Lynn, Lynn, Lynn! Thank you SO MUCH for sending a link to your blog! I immediately went there and intend to mention it on my travel blog, Semi-True Tales (you can get there from We Called It Home if you haven't seen it) so all our other friends traveling in Oregon can check it out - which I hope to do in depth soon. Looks like great information.


K Ross said...

Hot damn! Great site. Glad we found it. Thanks for taking the time to post comments and photos. Great stuff! We're planning on heading South for the winter very shortly but want to move around frequently. Your reviews should be very helpful. Thanks again.

Big Granma said...

THANK YOU!!! for taking the time to post info about campgrounds. This is our first time in Oregon and we're still green in full-timing it on the road. We're currently a guest of a rest stop on I-5 jno of Grants Pass trying to determine where to visit first. Your posts will help greatly.

By chance, can you recommend a web site or where I can obtain info on which roads are RV (37footer) friendly in Oregon? After driving around No. California's mountains and coastal area, I'm chicken to blindly head out off the interstate. Thank you again for your time.

Laurie and Odel said...

Hi, Big Granma. The best answer to your question is: buy the Mountain Directory West. You should not be fulltiming in the western states without it!

My travel blog address is http://laurieandodel.blogspot.com and I posted a more complete answer there after reading your comment. You might want to take a look.

As for roads in Oregon... if you came into Oregon from California on Hwy 101, I don't think you will run into much in Oregon that you can't handle. Driving through the Redwoods on 101 in CA is mighty good training.

The Columbia River Gorge (I-84) is no problem; neither is I-5, of course. Most of Highway 101 is easy; all of it is doable. We've driven east/west between Florence and Eugene, and between Reedsport and I-5. Today we drove east from Eugene on Hwy 58 to 97 - no problem. We've driven many of the roads in eastern Oregon - no problems there, either.

Sometimes, when I am leery of a particular route, I will use Google Earth to "fly" over the route - or use a good computer mapping program to see how winding it appears to be... but nothing beats the Mountain Directory books.

If you haven't read our travel blog, you might like to look at it for information about Oregon travels. In the left hand column of that blog, scroll way down, past the recipes, to "Find posts by Topic". Click on Oregon and look for the places that appeal to you. Our MH is 38 feet, and we tow... so if we got there, you probably can, too. :)

Safe travels,

Lisa McIntyre said...

Hi! I am so glad to have stumbled upon your sight :) I am in Eugene for a month and am looking for free parking in the area. I'm staying in my son's neighborhood right now, but am wearing out my welcome here. No worries, I'd like to move on as well.

I'll be moving up the coast, then down over the next few months and will utilze your insights.

Thanks, Lisa