Camp Hancock Star Party

Registration for September 2019 Camp Hancock will open at 8:00am on June 22. Please check the forum for a link to the registration page.

Camp Hancock is an OMSI sponsored field station, located in a spectacular setting two miles east of the John Day River in Oregon's Clarno Fossil Beds. 

This is a star party for RCA members and their guests only.

44° 55' N, 120° 25' W  
Altitude 1585 feet
Driving Directions

As a star party location, the camp's many advantages include:

  • Hancock cooks the meals, Saturday and Sunday am.

  • *We’re providing Pizza and Salad for dinner Friday night*

  • Actual restrooms and hot showers.

  • Dry buildings if the weather is not cooperative.

  • Intermittent internet access.

  • Two elevated viewing areas with AC power available.

  • No nearby traffic.

  • No other groups or parties using the facilities.

  • You can set up and leave your gear up all weekend, the only people there are other astronomers.

  • Family friendly.

$60 per night per person, all meals Saturday and Sunday morning included, accommodations for RVs, camping or cabins.

You must be registered and paid in advance to attend this outing.

New to Star Parties? Read Etiquette for Star Parties

Camp Hancock Information

Hancock Field Station was named for A.W. (Lon) Hancock, an amateur paleontologist who became nationally known in 1942 when he made the first discovery of a vertebrate fossil—a rhinoceros tooth—in the Eocene-age Clarno Formation near the site of the present field station.     (OMSI Camp Hancock teacher's guide)

Hancock Field Station was named for A.W. (Lon) Hancock, an amateur paleontologist who became nationally known in 1942 when he made the first discovery of a vertebrate fossil—a rhinoceros tooth—in the Eocene-age Clarno Formation near the site of the present field station. (OMSI Camp Hancock teacher's guide)

Camp Hancock is within the National Park Service Clarno Fossil beds.  Hancock's facility is well-equipped but rustic. Most of the buildings were built in the late 1960s and are wood with cedar shake roofs. It is an outdoor youth camp with bunkhouses, mess hall, bathrooms (hot water and showers), and limited camping area. There are no planned daytime activities, but Camp Hancock is a great place for hiking, birdwatching, and photography, and it’s a short drive to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil beds.  The science buildings are not open to us. 

Camp Hancock is family friendly.  Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and under parental supervision at all times.

The rest rooms have hot and cold running water, showers, heat, and electricity. In addition, there are two outhouses on site, which we are encouraged to use as a way to conserve water.

In the event of an emergency, Hancock's phone number is 541-489-3233, but be aware that it will go to an answering machine and may not be answered promptly.  There is a pay-phone in the dining hall for outgoing calls.

The last cellphone service is at the top of the hill six miles west of Hancock or as you approach the town of Fossil seventeen miles to the east.

Smoking is allowed only in the campfire ring area, but not in any other place, indoors or outdoors, on the grounds at Hancock.

Camp Guidelines

Camp Hancock is surrounded by the National Monument. Please stay on established trails when hiking. We are forbidden from going off-trail on the monument. Violating this rule jeopardizes our relationship with OMSI and may affect our ability to hold star parties there.

  • Do not enter Camp Hancock before 4 p.m. on Friday.

  • If camping, use camp stoves only; no open fires.

  • NO smoking except at the fire pit.

  • NO PETS.

  • No bicycles in camp or on trails.

  • No camping, parking or telescope set up on the surrounding U.S. National Monument or U.S. Park Service lands.

  • When you arrive, be sure to check yourself in (look for clipboard in mess hall).

  • Cabins and accommodations are on a first-come, first serve basis.

  • We do not allow drop-ins or visitors. Only RCA members and their guests and family who are registered and spending at least one night may attend.

  • Have your emergency contact information with you and on you at all times:

  1. Emergency contact
    Name, Address, Phone number, Alternate phone number if available

  2. Physician information

  3. Insurance information

Driving Directions

The camp is about 150 miles from Portland. There are two routes to choose from:

Highway 26 East

Take Hwy 26 east over Mount Hood. Turn left onto Hwy 216 to Hwy 197 just west of Maupin. Turn right (south) on Hwy 197, go through Maupin, continue on Hwy 197 south to its junction with Hwy 97. Turn left (north) onto Hwy 97 and take it to Shaniko (you will be backtracking for a short distance).

Note: there is an alternative from Maupin. At the bottom of the hill as you cross the river just at the end of the bridge over the river is Bakeoven Road. It's a 180-degree turn from the bridge to get onto it and it comes out one mile east of Shaniko.

I-84 East

Take I-84 east from Portland to Biggs Junction (exit 104), exit and head south on Hwy 97 to Shaniko.

At Shaniko, turn south and east onto Hwy 218 (Shaniko-Fossil Hwy) and continue through Antelope and east towards Clarno near the John Day River. Look for the entrance to Camp Hancock exactly two miles east of the John Day River.

Plan on a four-hour trip plus any stops you may make. Don't forget to gas up at Maupin, Biggs Junction or Grass Valley.  It can be 50 miles between gas stations out here, and there is no gas at Shaniko.

Click for a map with the layout of the bunkhouses, restrooms, etc. at Camp Hancock.


The expected temperatures are expected to be around 50-70 in the daytime and 30-40 at night. Bring warm clothing, it will be very cold at night no matter how nice the day is.

We never cancel this event due to weather-related conditions.


There are three viewing areas at Camp Hancock. The camp, at 1500 feet, is surrounded by hills as high as 3000 feet, so the horizons are about 20 degrees up.

  1. Astronomy Hill has four AC outlets. You can drive up and unload your equipment, and then park out on the western edge, or down below the hill.

  2. The Ridge has eight AC outlets. Unfortunately we can no longer drive up to unload and must park down below.

  3. The grassy tent lawn area has no AC outlets, but parking is right there. Please stay off the staff's lawn in front of the staff cabins.

What to bring, besides your telescope and accessories: 

  • Red LED flashlights, red covers for computer screens, etc.

  • Extra warm clothes and sleepwear, sturdy shoes.

  • Warm sleeping bags.

  • Towels, soap and shampoo and all personal care items.

  • Personal medications.

  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, handkerchief.

  • Extra batteries for anything with an app.

  • Book or magazine, knitting or video games.

  • Personal snacks, kept in tight, critter-proof containers.

Here are some Star Party Etiquette suggestions.

Why we're here: a view of the lights in the area.


Meals are nutritious and homemade. Vegetarian options are available.  We assist the camp staff with setting the tables before meals and the clean-up after.

*Friday Dinner - - We’re providing Pizza and Salad*

 Saturday Breakfast - 9:00 am
Saturday Lunch fixings - 10:00 am
    Make your own sack lunch, keep in refrigerator or take with you.
Saturday Dinner - 6:00 pm
Sunday Breakfast - 9:00 am
Sunday Lunch fixings - 10:00 am
   Make your own sack lunch to take with you.

A coffee pot and hot water are available all night long, along with tea bags, hot chocolate and coffee.  Microwave and refrigerator available, but there are no soda or snack machines.


One Large bunkhouse with 16 bunks
Five Large bunkhouses with 14 bunks each
Two Medium bunkhouses with 8 bunks each
Seven Small bunkhouses that each have only one bunk, and three mattresses on the floor

Refund Policy

In order to rent the entire camp for ourselves we need a minimum number of people registered 60 days in advance of the outing.

  • Until the registration deadline, all monies are refundable.

  • After the registration deadline, refunds are only available to those whose spots can be filled by the waiting list, or by approval of the VP of Observing.

If you have any further questions, email the VP of Observing.