Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute marks eight years of outdoor learning

DEQ helped launch the program, where high school students earn college credit studying the John Day River watershed

For eight years, high school students in rural communities have earned college credits and learned about watershed science in the outdoor classroom provided by the Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute. The program includes hands-on learning at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon’s largest at 8,000 acres. 2021 was another success!

With all the surface water from the John Day River basin flowing through the park, Cottonwood Canyon is an ideal place for STEM-centered outdoor learning, including a fuller appreciation for the river’s connection to upstream communities. Students are able to study the John Day River watershed from its uppermost reaches to the Columbia River confluence – its seasons, histories, economies, communities and biomes.

Photo credit: CCSI, 2019

The program also provides career pathways in fields such as recreation management, hydrology, geology, botany, wildlife sciences, photojournalism, technical/descriptive writing, history, renewable energy technologies and communications and public speaking.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality helped launch the institute in partnership with the Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Program, Gilliam and Wheeler counties, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Eastern Oregon University, BLM Prineville District, John Day and Snake River Resource Advisory Council, U.S. Forest Service, NRCS, Oregon Water Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Water Resource Department.

Learn more about Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute.

For information about community and economic development projects across the state, please visit:

DEQ’s Regional Solutions Team webpage.

Oregon’s Regional Solutions webpages.

– Randy Jones, Regional Solutions Coordinator for Oregon’s Eastern Region/Northeast and Greater Eastern Region

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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