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Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Salem Parks – Wallace Marine to Minto-Brown Island

With an influx of visitors expected in Oregon for the eclipse we decided to do something a little different for our most recent hike.  Heeding warnings of possible traffic issues (which never seemed to have materialized) we stayed close to home opting for a urban hike through three city parks in Salem.

We had gotten the idea for this urban hike when the opening of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Brdige on June 5th, 2017 made it possible to walk or bike through Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks without having to use any streets. Given the unknowns associated with the eclipse this seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

We began our hike at West Salem’s Wallace Marine Park.
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After entering the 114 acre park we turned left (north) and headed for the softball complex which consists of 5 fields that host several tournaments each year.
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We looped around the fields which were empty this early it morning. No games meant no crowds but that didn’t mean there was a lack of noise. Osprey use the light poles for nests and they were making their presence known from their high perches.
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After looping around the fields we headed south past the parks entrance road and several soccer fields.
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Shortly before reaching the Union Street Railroad Pedestrian Bridge we turned left down a paved path to the Willamette River.
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After visiting the river we headed for the pedestrian bridge.
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Originally constructed in 1912-13 for the Pacific Union Railroad the half mile bridge was purchased for $1 by the city in 2004. In April, 2009 the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and bicyclists connecting Wallace Marine Park to Salem’s Riverfront Park.
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After crossing the river we turned right and headed into Riverfront Park. The section of sidewalk just after the bridge was one of the least scenic portions of the route as it followed the parks entrance road past an electrical station and under the Center and Marion Street Bridges.
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Between the Marion Street and Center Street Bridges is the Gilbert House Children’s Museum.

This science and art museum is a great place for kids and fun for their parents.
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We chose to go around the museum on the left which took us between the museum and some still operational railroad tracks. If you’re looking for scenery skip this section and stay to the west of the museum which keeps the river in view.

After passing a parking lot we came to the open green grass of Riverfront Park.
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A music event was being set up in the center of the 23 acre park.
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The park is also home to the Willamette Queen Sternwheeler
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Riverfront Park was the location of the field sessions when Heather and I took the Route-Finding Class offered by the Chemeketans.

We passed the small open air amphitheater, which is slated for an upgrade in 2020, and continued south toward the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
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Another park feature, the Eco-Earth Globe, sits near the bridge and is an interesting bit of art.
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We headed across the bridge and into Minto-Brown Island Park.
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Interpretive signs line the new section of trail linking the bridge to the older trail system in the park after approximately 3/4 of a mile.
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At the junction with the older trail is a large signboard and map.
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By far the largest of the three parks, at 1,200 acres, numerous trails and loop options were available to us. We had done a short loop hike here in April of 2016 but this time planned on covering a bit more ground.

We turned right at the map and followed paved paths to the bank of the Willamette River.
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Signage along the trails is excellent and makes it fairly easy to get around even if you aren’t familiar with the park. We were headed for the Shelter Parking Lot, where we had started our 2016 visit.
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We had been passed by several familiar faces running with groups from Gallagher Fitness Resources but when we arrived at their watering hold near the gazebo at the Shelter Parking lot there were none to be seen in the area.
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We continued on from the gazebo following our route from our previous visit by forking right across at footbridge after a tenth of a mile.
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After another .4 miles we detoured to the left to visit a collapsing fishing dock.
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We continued on passing an open field before turning off the paved path on a wide dirt path to the left which led us to Faragate Ave.
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At Faragate Ave we turned left on a paved path which paralleled the road for a short distance before bending back into the park.
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After crossing another footbridge we turned right on a narrow dirt path.
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This path led about a quarter mile to another paved path where we initially turned right hoping to make a wide loop on another dirt path. We took a left on a little path after a tenth of a mile but it was rather brushy with blackberry vines and some poison oak so we quickly scrapped that idea and returned to the paved path which runs between the east end of Homestead Road and the Shelter Parking Lot #3. This section of trail is a bit drier and more open which allows for a few more flowers as well as little more poison oak.
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There is also an old car along the way.
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We were on our way back, but before reaching the gazebo we turned right on the Duck Loop which would swing us out and around some duck ponds.
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We crossed the park’s entrance road after .9 miles and turned right along it to the Entrance Parking Lot which we found to be super busy. We followed a paved path from the far end of the lot across the Willamette Slough and turned right on another paved path.
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We completed our loop through Minto and headed back toward Riverfront Park.
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We took a different route back through Riverfront Park in order to go by Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, another great attraction for kids.
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According to our GPS we managed to get 12.4 miles in for the day and there were still trails in Minto that we didn’t get to. Even though urban hikes are a lot different than our normal outings this was a nice hike and gives us a nearby go-to option when we just can’t get away. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Wallace to Minto Parks