Cottage Grove Hiking Oregon Trip report

Row River Trail – Mosby Creek TH to Harms Park -12/18/2021

A combination of a busy December both at work and home and uncooperative weather left us with one final day to get our December hike in before the holiday weekend. Short of an ice storm we planned on hiking somewhere but the exact hike would depend on the weather forecast. As we got closer to the day, rain was the consensus everywhere within our day hiking radius. I looked through the hikes we hadn’t done yet for options for this time of year where a day of rain would have least impact on the hike. After coming up with a couple of possibilities, each a different direction from Salem a I looked again at the forecast for each area to see if any looked better than the others. The Row River Trail just East of Cottage Grove was the clear winner with just a chance of showers in the morning increasing to rain as the day went on.

A converted rail road, the Row River Trail is a 14 mile long paved National Recreation Trail. We hiked a portion of the trail last June during a multi-stop day (post). On that day we started at Bake Stewart Park which is on the eastern side of Dorena Lake and hiked west to Rat Creek which is just beyond Harms Park. Our plan for this outing was to park on the other side of Dorena Lake at the Mosby Creek Trailhead and hike east to Harms Park. It was overcast but not raining when we pulled into the trailhead parking area.

The trail begins in Cottage Grove approximately 3 miles to the west of this trailhead it passes through town then closely follows Mosby Creek Road to the trailhead. While the trail beyond Mosby Creek crosses several roads and follows Row River Road around Dorena Lake it is more scenic than the first 3 miles would have been. Starting at the Mosby Creek Trailhead also offers the chance to make a quick 50 yard detour to the 1920 Mosby Creek Covered Bridge which was restored in 1990 and is still in use.


The Row River Trail crosses Mosby Creek on a nearby trestle bridge.


The trail is basically as straight as an arrow for 1.3 miles from the Mosby Creek bridge to a second bridge over the Row River. The scenery along this stretch is farmland and trees.



IMG_7434Ivy disguising itself as a tree.

IMG_7442Mallards and Christmas lights.

IMG_7444Layng Road crossing. The lights on the signs were activated when sensors picked up something approaching.



IMG_7457Currin Covered Bridge on Layng Road.

IMG_7459Cormorants flying overhead.

IMG_7460Approaching the bridge over the Row River.

IMG_7469Row River

Lesser scaupLesser scaup. I would have liked a better picture but it was still early and not very light and the little guy was a ways away on the river.

A short distance beyond the river we passed under Row River Road.

20211218_113536_HDRThis was a new sign to us.

Shortly after passing under Row River Road the trail began a small climb above some farms as it made a sweeping curve to the right.
IMG_7473Row River Road with some snowy hillsides in the distance.

IMG_7477Arrows and other yellow markings identified bumps and holes in the trail for equestrian and bike users.


IMG_7484Jelly fungus

IMG_7487Hamblen Creek

IMG_7490Turkeys in a field.

IMG_7495Sign along a private driveway.

IMG_7503Not very many mushrooms but these were good sized.

The trail crossed Row River Road again as it passed along the shoulder of Cerro Gordo, a 2112′ butte.

From the road crossing We descended slightly passing the unmarked site where the campfire scene was filmed for the 1986 movie Stand By Me before arriving at the Dorena Lake Dam.

IMG_7508Do squirrels jog?

IMG_7509Madrone along the trail.

IMG_7511Row River Road was overhead to the left along this rocky section.


IMG_7515Nearing a bench along the trail facing Dorena Lake Dam.


IMG_7521Interpretive sign near the bench.


A short distance beyond the bench we took a short detour down to the reservoir.


Calapooya MountainsSnow in the Calapooya Mountains.


IMG_7536White pelicans on the other side of Dorena Lake.

We returned to the Row River Trail and continued another half a mile to a small parking area at Row Point where we again detoured to the reservoir.
IMG_7547Still no rain despite the clouds.

IMG_7555Red-tailed hawk




IMG_7568A kingfisher and a great blue heron.

White pelcians and other waterfowlPelicans and other waterfowl on the move.

IMG_7576Cerro Gordo from Row Point.

After visiting Row Point we continued east on the trail for another 1.3 miles before arriving at the Rat Creek Bridge which had been our turn around point on our previous hike.
IMG_7582Not much water at all in the eastern end of the reservoir.

IMG_7586A great blue heron on the far left with a bunch of white pelicans and cormorants.

IMG_7597Actual sunlight hitting the dam.


IMG_7601Spotted towhee

IMG_7605Rat Creek Bridge

IMG_7606Rat Creek

It was a very different view from the bridge versus last time.
Dorena LakeJune 2020 from the Rat Creek Bridge.

We continued the short distance into Harms Park to use the facilities and take a short break at a picnic table and then started back.


IMG_7614Gold tree in front of Cerro Gordo.

When we were nearing the dam again we could see a number of cormorants lining the boom.

I decided to detour over to the dam itself to check out the view.
IMG_7618The little hill to the left provides access to the north end of the dam.




Heather had semi-reluctantly followed me but as it turned out we were both very happy we’d made the short side trip. Along with the group of cormorants making use of the boom were 4 river otters.


IMG_7626Just drying out.


IMG_7645Trying to play.

IMG_7646No luck.


After not having seen any otters during our hikes prior to 2021 this was now the 4th time we’d seen one but the first where we were able to watch them for any extended period. It elevated what had already been a good hike into the great category. After watching the otters for awhile we headed back to the Mosby Creek Trailhead keeping our eyes open for other wildlife along the way.


IMG_7673American wigeons

IMG_7684Nature slowly reclaiming an old farm truck.

IMG_7689Red breasted sap sucker.

IMG_7695Mosby Creek

The hike came in a 12.4 miles after all of the little side trips with only about 150′ of elevation gain.

There are numerous possible starting/turnaround points which make it possible to break the trial up into several smaller sections and we passed a few people doing just that with their dogs/children. The rain showers never materialized making it a much more pleasant day than we’d expected to have and the variety of wildlife, especially the otters, was a great way to finish off our 2021 hikes. Happy Trails and Merry Christmas!

Flickr: Row River Trail – Mosby TH to Harms Park

Cottage Grove Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Spirit, Pinard, & Moon Falls with the Swordfern and Row River Trails – 6/17/2020

Our knack for picking vacation weeks that coincide with wet weather was on display once again as we started a week of day hikes. In January the plan had been to travel to the Pendleton and John Day areas for this vacation but in February Umatilla County experienced severe flooding which damaged many roads and trails and then COVID-19 began shutting everything down so we settled on day hikes from Salem instead. Our vacation got off to a rocky start when Saturday’s forecast was for a lot of rain and so was Monday’s with less on Sunday and Tuesday then it looked like the rest of the week would be better. We bumped our hike to Henline Falls and Mountain (post) from Saturday to Sunday and planned our next hike for Tuesday.

By Monday afternoon the Tuesday forecast had gone from partly sunny to showers and a chance of thunderstorms so we adjusted our plans again bumping Tuesday’s hike to Wednesday. Wednesday morning we set off for Cottage Grove, OR to visit three waterfalls in the Umpqua National Forest. The hikes to Spirit, Pinard, and Moon Falls were one of Sullivan’s featured hikes that we still needed to do but for various reasons we had not been able to work them into our schedule yet.

We started our day at the Spirit Falls Trailhead.

A short but muddy .4 mile path descended to the 40′ waterfall.

The one positive of the recent rains was that there was plenty of water feeding the falls.

Our next stop was the Pinard Falls Trail.

The Pinard Falls Trail is just over a half mile long following an old road bed for the first .3 miles before turning into a true trail.

Pinard Falls is a 65 foot tall horsetail waterfall.


Our last waterfall for the day was Moon Falls. The road to that trailhead was blocked by a large downed tree a little less than 100 yards from the trailhead.
IMG_5999Downed tree across the road.


Like the trail to Pinard Falls the Moon Falls Trail was also just over a half mile long and followed an old roadbed for the first .3 miles.


We had unintentionally done the hikes in order of waterfall height from smallest to largest. Moon Falls is an 80′ fan which turned out to be our favorite of the three.
Moon Falls

The three waterfall hikes were excellent but short so by the time we were done with them we had hiked just a little over 3 miles. We took the opportunity to add a couple of additional stops to the day starting with the Swordfern Trail located at Rujada Campground. This 2-mile loop was on our way back from the waterfalls so we thought we’d give it a try.
The Forest Service website said the trail was open but the conditions were unknown as of 5/8/2020 but a sign at the trailhead cautioned about severe winter damage.

We figured if it was still open it couldn’t be that bad and since the loop was only 2 miles a few obstacles wouldn’t hurt. The trail set off along Laying Creek and passed by a picnic area.



It wasn’t long before we got a taste of the severe damage.
IMG_6073Looking back at some of the obstacles.

IMG_6082More obstacles ahead.

When there wasn’t nearly constant obstacles the trail was nice.
IMG_6084Ferns along the Swordfern Trail.

When the trail began to loop away from the creek we completely lost the tread under forest debris.

We used the GPS to attempt to relocate the tread but to no avail which was probably for the best given the return would have been on the same hillside just a little higher up. We cut down from where we were to relocate the portion that we had already hiked and made our way back to the trailhead. Instead of a 2-mile loop we did a 1.8 mile out-and-back.

Knowing that even if we had done the 2-mile loop as planned we would still have only been around 5 miles for the day we had planned on a fifth and final stop on the way home at Bake Stewart Park.

A wide path led through a meadow (with a little poison oak) to the Row River Trail, a converted rail line.

IMG_6109Self heal

IMG_6117Pale flax


IMG_6124Looks like something in the mallow family.

IMG_6127Red beetle

20200617_115015Sneaky poison oak

The .3 mile path brought us to the paved Row River Trail where we turned left.

The trail passed several fields with flowers and butterflies before arriving at Dorena Lake, a reservoir created by damming the Row River.



IMG_6141Approaching Dorena Lake

20200617_120844Bachelor button

IMG_6148No idea what this is, possibly non-native.

There seemed to be a good amount of water in the reservoir which made it look more like a lake than reservoirs often do.

At the 1.5 mile mark we came to Smith Creek.


Beyond Smith Creek there were good views across a marshy wetland popular with geese, ducks and herons.

IMG_6176Canada geese

IMG_6227A great blue heron with at least one duck in the grass.

The trail then passed through a few forested sections and past one rocky cliff where a viewpoint looked out across the lake.


IMG_6190You can see a bit of the rocks on the opposite side of the trail.

A mix of flowers, mostly non-native brightened the viewpoint.



20200617_124801Scarlet pimpernel

We had decided to make Rat Creek our turnaround point which was 3.5 miles from the parking area in Bake Stewart Park. Just before reaching Rat Creek we passed through Harms Park, another possible trailhead.

IMG_6211Dorena Lake from Rat Creek

IMG_6213Bug on the Rat Creek bridge.

We returned the way we’d come keeping our eyes out for anything new on the way back. In Bake Stewart Park we spotted some really tall bluehead gilia and a nice little clarkia.


With the 7+ miles on the Row River Trail we had finished our day with a total of 12.4 miles. The three waterfalls were great short hikes and each would be a worthwhile stop on its own. If the Swordfern Trail receives some much needed maintenance it also seemed like it would be a nice short hike although not as impressive as the falls. For a paved trail near town along a reservoir we were pleasantly surprised by the Row River Trail. We will certainly be keeping it in mind for another visit. Most likely when the higher trails are inaccessible. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spirit, Pinard, & Moon Falls, Swordfern Trail, and Row River Trail