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Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Talking Water Gardens – 12/17/2022

After a couple of months of being on my own while Heather recovered from a bad knee she had been released to take short hikes with minimal elevation changes. With Heather cleared for action we just needed a favorable forecast for our December hike. When a day off coincided with a rain-free forecast we set off for the Talking Water Gardens in Albany. The site of two former mills Talking Water Gardens is a series of wastewater ponds created to assist with water treatment for the cities of Albany and Millersburg. While it may not sound like a typical place for a hike a series of paths and maintenance roads provide for a nice stroll with plenty chances to spot wildlife.

There are a couple of possible starting points for a visit to the gardens and we chose to begin at Waverly Lake and follow a route suggested in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide.
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IMG_4893Waverly Lake at sunrise.

We headed left (clockwise) around Waverly Lake where a number of ducks were paddling around.
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IMG_4895Mallards

IMG_4903Buffleheads

IMG_4906I think this is a ruddy duck.

IMG_4915American coots

IMG_4914Guessing these are some sort of domestic/mallard? crossbreeds. Very interesting looking.

IMG_4917More mallards near Cox Creek

IMG_4919Cox Creek flowing toward Waverly Lake.

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IMG_4926Nearing the outlet of Cox Creek.

When we arrived at Cox Creek flowing out of the lake we crossed Salem Avenue then crossed Cox Creek on a footbridge.
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We turned left on far side of the creek and followed a paved path 0.3 miles to Waverly Dr. NE and the other possible starting point, Simpson Park.
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IMG_4935We almost got off-track here. This path on the right (just after passing under some railroad tracks) does lead into the wetlands but it wasn’t part of the Oregon Hikers described hike.

IMG_4937One of several interpretive signs along the trails.

IMG_4939Frosty leaves, it had been a chilly 28 degrees when we started out.

IMG_4941Simpson Park

We walked over to the park to take a look but didn’t check out the Simpson Park Trail this trip.
IMG_4942The Simpson Park Trail is a 1 mile out and back along the Willamette River. It also offers access to the Riverfront Trail which one could follow SW almost 3.5 miles to Monteith Riverpark at the mouth of the Calapooia River. With Heather being limited to shorter hikes for now that wasn’t an option today but will be something we look forward to trying in the future.

After the brief detour we recrossed Waverly Road and entered the gardens through a black gate.
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We headed left past a mostly frozen pond.
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IMG_4945Map on a welcome sign.

IMG_4946Frozen leaves

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There are numerous different loops and routes available through the gardens. We followed the Oregon Hikers description linked above. We had to stop numerous times to consult the track map from that description to stay on the right path due to the trails not being marked/signed and the only maps having been located near the entrance. The paths themselves were in good shape and we saw a lot of ducks and other birds as we wound through the wetlands.
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IMG_4956American wigeons

IMG_4962Bald eagle fly over

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IMG_4968Flock of geese flying over

IMG_4977One of many unsigned intersections.

IMG_4982Robin

IMG_4983One of two memorials in the gardens.

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IMG_5016Bufflehead

IMG_5017Green winged teal

IMG_5019Northern shoveler

IMG_5024Frost

IMG_5027Simpson Park across a pond.

After completing our loop we headed back to Waverly Lake where some fog had rolled in.
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IMG_5036Fishermen heading into the fog at Waverly Lake.

IMG_5039Mallards hanging out in the fog.

IMG_5040Dark eyed junco

The GPS had us at a 3.5-mile hike, a little more than what Oregon Hikers showed but we did double-back a handful of times for one reason or another.

This was surprisingly nice hike and we’re anxious to visit again when the plants are green and water is flowing through the ponds. This was perfect though for a first outing to test Heather’s progress. Merry Christmas and Happy Trails!

Flirck: Talking Water Gardens

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