Giles French State Park and the John Day Dam

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The park is located on the downstream bank below John Day Dam, on the Oregon side. Exit I-84 at exit 109 to the town of Rufus. Turn north and go under the freeway all the way to the river. Turn right (east) and travel to the end of the road. There are several places to pull out and scan the river here. So, what’s the draw to Giles French Park? The John Day Dam. The turbines of this dam chop up fish and bring scavenging gulls to this location in large numbers. There are also a few trees here and migrants sometimes stop over to rest. To view the area above the dam, take I-84 to the John Day River (this means you will have to drive past the dam) and take I-84 exit 114 to LePage Park. Loop around and get back on I-84 westbound. Westbound, you can stop at the bottom of the on-ramp to I-84 to look at the gulls on the Columbia River. Then at the top of the ramp you have to pass a rock wall before you can see the river. You can park safely where the rocks end and the long guardrail begins. Here you can climb down under the fence, cross the railroad tracks, and view the river. A smooth gravel roadway parallels the tracks along the river. Back at your car, you must drive ~2 mi along the guardrail before you reach the rest area at the top of the dam. Pull off at the wire fence before you get into the rest area. There you can again get down to the tracks and walk along the river to view the area above the dam. If you have time, check LePage Park to the east along the John Day River


Habitat and Birds

This is a park setting with a good view below the dam. Some very good birds have been spotted here. Gulls include Bonaparte’s, Mew, Ring-billed, California, Thayer’s, Herring, Western, Glaucous-winged, Glaucous, and Sabine’s. A Little Gull was seen here in 1989 and a Lesser Black-backed Gull was here in 2009. Terns can be found as well. It’s a good place to find loons (even Yellow-billed Loon has been seen here). Scan the grebes for Clark’s & Red-necked and the mergansers for Redbreasted. Passerines here have included Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Harris’s Sparrow, and Red Crossbill.