Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands – 06/26/2021

With a record setting heat wave arriving just in time for the weekend we changed our hiking plans and looked for something close to home and on the shorter side so that we could get a hike in before the temperatures got too ridiculous. A pair of hikes at the Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area matched that criteria and would be new hikes to us. A mere 30 minute drive from our house we were able to reach the first of the two trailheads, the Luckiamute Landing Trailhead by 5:15am. (We actually parked in a pullout 0.4 miles from the trailhead which I blame on not being fully awake yet.)
IMG_9011Private farm along the entrance road from the pullout we parked at.

IMG_9012Osprey nest above the corn field.

IMG_9013Gated road at the trailhead. There was a second gravel road to the right that was blocked with a log. The gravel road appeared to be fairly new and possibly a reroute of the gated road.

We walked around the gate and followed the dirt road a tenth of a mile to what must have once been the trailhead. The road passed near the Luckiamute River and it looked as though the river had been eroding the the embankment under the road which might explain why the trailhead was moved and the newer gravel road.
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IMG_9017Old trailhead?

A loop started at the signboard here.
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We stayed straight and continued following the road which never approached the Luckiamute again.
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The road soon skirted the edge of a large field where a cat was in the middle on a morning hunt.
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IMG_9024Extreme zoom on the kitty.

There was also a coyote out in the field but it disappeared into the grasses too quickly for even a poor photo. We continued on toward the Sun that would soon be scorching the Northwest and away from the Moon and the cool of night.
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On our right was the open field but on the left was a wall of vegetation including some ripe thimbleberries which are Heather’s favorites.
IMG_9032Wild rose

IMG_9039Vetch

IMG_9043Oregon grape

20210626_054759Thimbleberry

A finch appeared to be doing some sort of dance in the road.
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A half mile after starting the loop we came to spur trail to the left with a hiker symbol for an interpretive sign. We of course took the bait and followed the path 50 yards to the sign at the end of the spur.
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After reading the sign we returned to the loop and continued to the end of the field.
IMG_9056We both initially thought that this was the start of an out and back to campsites along the Willamette River and that the loop continued around the field to the right. In fact there was a blue awning set up at the edge of the field in that direction and at least 3 vehicles (not sure why they were there or how they got through the gate). This was not the case and fortunately for us we were planning on doing the out and back which meant we didn’t make the mistake of turning here. The continuation of the loop was actually 0.2 miles further along the road in the forest.
IMG_9060The correct right turn for the loop.

We ignored the loop for now continuing on the road through a mixed forest.
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IMG_9063Cottonwood on the road.

IMG_9059Red elderberry, a favorite of the birds.

IMG_9066This wren was taking a dirt bath, perhaps an attempt to stay cool?

IMG_9067A lot of invasive daisies in an opening.

IMG_9073Native elegant brodiaea

IMG_9074Egg shell

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IMG_9078More ripe berries.

The road curved to the north as it neared the Willamette and led to an open flat with a couple of picnic tables and campsites for boaters traveling the 187 mile long Willamette Water Trail.
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IMG_9080Poppies

IMG_9086Mostly non-natives – chicory and clovers.

IMG_9088More non-natives – Moth mullein and cultivated radish

IMG_9083Slug

IMG_9089Douglas spirea (native)

Beyond the campsites a narrow use trail led to a view across the Willamette River to the Santiam River as it joined the Willamette.
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IMG_9092The mouth of the Luckiamute on the left was hidden by trees.

I tried following the use trail to the Luckiamute but it ended (or at least my attempt did) in thick vegetation.
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We returned to the campsites and followed a path down to the river landing.
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To be honest neither of us had heard of the Willamette Water Trail until then but it was interesting to learn of its existence.
IMG_9105Willamette River at the landing.

IMG_9104Not sure what type of birds these were.

IMG_9102Bindweed at the landing.

We headed back along the road, which was still busy with wildlife, and then turned left to continue the loop when we reached that junction.
IMG_9112Bunny and a bird (not pictured is the chipmunk that raced across the road here).

IMG_9114Slug also “racing” across the road. Speed is relative.

IMG_9116Back on the loop.

Instead of skirting the filed this portion of the loop stayed in the “gallery forest”, a narrow strip of trees that grows along a waterway in an open landscape. (Learned that term from an interpretive sign along this section.)
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IMG_9150Near the end of the loop the trail passed back along the field.

IMG_9141White crowned sparrow

IMG_9147Possibly nelson’s checkermallow.

IMG_9149Meadow checkermallow

IMG_9155Completing the loop.

IMG_9156Lupine that is just about finished.

Before we headed back to the car we followed a path on the other side of the road a tenth of a mile to the Luckiamute River.
IMG_9159Old bus

IMG_9163Tree frog

IMG_9165Luckiamute River

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After visiting this river we hiked back to our car via the newer gravel road. One of the osprey had just left the nest to presumably find some food when it came back into view.
IMG_9173Waiting for food.

Our hike here came to 5.5 miles. Had we parked at the actual trailhead and not taken all of the side trails it would have been between 4.5 and 5 miles and if they reopen the road to the old trailhead the hike would be approximately 4 miles.

From the pullout we’d parked in we returned to Buena Vista Road and turned left (south) for a mile to the South Luckiamute Trailhead.
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This was supposed to be a 1.1 mile out and back to visit the West Pond where we might just spot a western pond turtle. We followed a gravel path south for 0.2 miles before it turning east at the edge of the park boundary.
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An old road bed dipped down to a flower filled field which it skirted eventually curving north and arriving at West Pond after half a mile. (West Pond is an old gravel pit.)
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IMG_9183Old farm equipment with poison oak in the background.

IMG_9184One of several birdhouses along the road.

You can go down to the pond at the south end but a couple had just headed down there in front of us so we decided to keep going and possibly visit that spot on the way back. The turtles, if we were to spot any, are primarily located at the northern end of the pond and we had left our binoculars in the cars so spotting them from the southern end wasn’t likely anyway.
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IMG_9190North end of the pond.

Except for the southern end the area around the pond is closed for turtle habitat.
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There was a good view of the pond from the road at the north end though. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any turtles although there were a couple of disruptions in the water that very well could have been their work. We did however see a few birds.
IMG_9198We are both pretty sure a turtle swam off from this area when we came into view.

IMG_9193Spotted towhee

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The entry on the Oregonhikers.org field guide showed the trail extending a bit to the north of the pond before ending which is why we had planned for a 1.1 mile out and back. The field guide did mention future plans to expand the trail network here though. We continued north along the road which turned into more of a grassy track but it never petered out. Instead it curved west then south wrapping around the field eventually leading back to the roadbed near where it had dropped to the field.
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IMG_9210European centaury

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IMG_9218Oyster plant

IMG_9221Creeping jenny

IMG_9222Arrowleaf clover

IMG_9223Scrub jay

IMG_9224Corn Chamomile

IMG_9226Northern flicker

IMG_9229Great blue heron

IMG_9234American kestral

After completing this unexpected loop we returned to our car. The hike here came in at 1.9 miles, still short but quite a bit further than the 1.1 miles we expected. We finished just before 9am but it was already in the high-70’s. The plan had worked though, we’d managed to get 7.4 miles of hiking in before 9am and were back home with the A/C on by 9:30am. During our hike we discussed the very real possibility that these types of heat waves will become more and more common in the future and pondered what that would look like. Something to think about and be prepared for but for now we’d had a nice morning on the trails and found a new local option to revisit. Happy Trails!

Top track – Luckiamute Landing
Lower track – Luckiamute Wetlands

Flickr: Luckiamute Landing and Wetlands

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin HIlls Nature Park, Tualatin River NWR, and Willamette Mission State Park

For our March outing we decided to stick relatively close to home and visit three nearby hikeable areas. Our first stop, and furthest from Salem at just under an hour away, was at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton.

We started from the large parking lot at the Tualatin Hills Nature Center on SW Millikan Way.
Tualatin Hills Nature Center

The Nature Center is currently open from 8:30am-5pm M-F and 9am-5pm Sat. & Sun. while the park itself is open everyday from dawn to dusk. We arrived at dawn and set off on the paved Vine Maple Trail between the Nature Center and restrooms.
Vine Maple Trail

We quickly turned right onto the signed Oak Trail which was also paved.
Oak Trail

In a third of a mile we detoured briefly at a sign for the Tadpole Ponds.
Tadpole Pond

Although we didn’t see any tadpoles, or other wildlife here, the sounds of birds had not stopped all morning so we knew there were plenty of animals around. We returned to the Oak Trail which passed by Cattail Marsh on the second of three boardwalks.
Oak Trail

Cattail Marsh

Beyond the marsh we soon came to the third boardwalk which crossed over Cedar Mill Creek.
Boardwalk and viewing platforms along the Oak Trail

Cedar Mill Creek

One of the many birds that we’d been listening to was kind enough to pose for a moment as we stood on the boardwalk.
Sparrow

On the far side of the boardwalk was a trail junction where the Oak Trail veered right to the Merlo Rd/158th Ave Max light rail station. To the left was the Old Wagon Trail, a dirt path closed to bikes.
Old Wagon Trail

We followed this trail through a forest that was starting to show signs of Spring for a third of a mile to a junction with the Mink Path.
Old Wagon Trail

Blossoms along the Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail junction with the Mink PathTrail pointer at the Mink Path junction. We appreciated the fact that all of the junctions were signed and those signs were easy to read but placed in such a way that they were unobtrusive.

The Mink Path is a .1 mile connector between the Old Wagon Trail and Vine Maple Trail allowing for a shorter loop back to the Nature Center. We opted to stay on the Old Wagon Trail though and continued to the start of another boardwalk where we stopped so I could try and take a photo of a robin that was hopping around on the trail. As I was working on getting a picture Heather spotted a deer just a bit off the trail.
Deer along the Old Wagon Trail (there really is one out ther)Can you see the deer?

I thought she was seeing things but then I noticed it move.
Doe along the Old Wagon Trail (again it is there)How about now?

She turned and watched us as I attempted to get the camera to focus on her and not the branches in the foreground.
Doe in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Not far from the deer we spotted a squirrel trying to become one with a limb.
Squirrel

At a “Y” in the boardwalk we veered left keeping on the Old Wagon Trail until we reached a junction with the Vine Maple Trail a total of .4 miles beyond the Mink Path junction. We turned left onto the Vine Maple Trail and then took a right at a pointer for the Lily Pond.

A short path led down to the pond but before we had reached it a pair of wood ducks took flight and landed in a nearby tree.
Wood Ducks

As we were admiring the wood ducks a pileated woodpecker was busy with its breakfast.
Pileated woodpecker

We eventually made it down to the pond where a few ducks remained in the water including what appeared to be a pair of gadwalls.
Interpretive sign at the Lily Pond

Lily Pond

Gadwalls

There were also signs of beaver activity but we’ve yet to actually see one in the wild.
Beaver work

After visiting the pond we returned to the Vine Maple Trail which was now paved and followed it past its junction with the Mink Path and across Cedar Mill Creek.
Vine Maple Trail

Vine Maple Trail crossing Cedar Mill Creek

Shortly after crossing the creek we faced another choice. The Nature Center lay a third of a mile away via the Vine Maple Trail but more loop options were available by taking the Elliot Path.
Trail sign in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

We took the .1 mile Elliot Path to a “T” shaped junction with the Big Fir Trail. Here again was a choice. Left headed back toward the Nature Center while right would take us to the Chickadee and Ash Loops and a short spur to Big Pond. We headed right and then turned left onto the spur to Big Pond.
Big Pond

Big Pond

There were plenty of ducks here as well. It appeared that most were mallards and green-winged teals.
Mallard and Green-winged teals

We returned to the Big Fir Trail and continued on crossing Beaverton Creek before arriving at a four way junction.
Beaverton CreekBeaverton Creek

More choices! The Big Fir Trail kept straight while the Chickadee Loop was to the right and the Ash Loop to the left. We began by heading right on the quarter mile Chickadee Loop which had a nice long section of boardwalk.
Chickadee Loop

After the quarter mile we were back at the Big Fir Trail where we turned right briefly before making a left onto the Ash Loop. The Ash Loop passed some wetlands where a pair of Canada Geese were enjoying the morning.
Wetlands along the Ash Loop

Canada geese

After .3 miles on the Ash Loop we found ourselves back at the four way junction where we turned right and recrossed Beaverton Creek and returned to the junction with the Elliot Path. Staying straight on the Big Fir Trail for just .05 miles we then turned right onto the .2 mile Trillium Loop. Oddly we didn’t see many of signs of trilliums along this short loop but we had seen several beginning to bloom along other trails. After completing the Trillium Loop we turned right again onto the Big Fir Trail for another .1 miles to the start of the half mile Ponderosa Loop.

We took the Ponderosa Loop where we spotted more trillium and our first wood violets of the year.
Trillium

Wood violet

At the end of the Ponderosa Loop we were once again turning right onto the Big Fir Trail. This time it was for less than a tenth of mile and then we were back at the Vine Maple Trail. Several spotted towhees and a couple of chickadees were foraging near this junction. The chickadees wouldn’t sit still but the towhees were a little more cooperative.
Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

A right turn onto the Vine Maple Trail followed by another .2 miles of hiking brought us back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. The total distance for our hike with all the extra loops was still just 4.2 miles. When we had arrived we were only the second car but the lot was now full as it was just a bit after 9am. We had passed the first volunteer led tour as we were finishing up the along the Ponderosa Trail and another group was preparing to set off shortly.

One of the reasons we had chosen to start our day with this hike was that we knew the park would get busy as the morning progressed which isn’t a bad thing but we always prefer to avoid the crowds when possible. It really was a first rate park though so the popularity is warranted.

We left the nature park and headed for our next stop, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d found this hike in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide and decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor Center along Highway 99W. The majority of hikeable paths in the refuge are closed from October 1st trough April 30th but the one mile River Trail and the very short Ridge Trail are open year round so we made those the target of this visit.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead

We set off on the River Trail and immediately spotted a hummingbird perched atop a tree.
River Trail

Hummingbird

The trail led downhill between a pair of small ponds.
Tualatin River Natioal Wildlife Refuge

The trail passes through a restored oak savannah before arriving at an observation deck above the Tualatin River a half mile from the parking lot.
River Trail

Viewing Deck along the River Trail

Tualatin River

Beyond the deck the trail continues briefly though the restored savannah before entering a forest.
River Trail

The trail splits in the trees with the Ridge Trail leading left to a viewpoint and the River Trail continuing right to the Wetlands Observation Deck.
River Trail junction with the Ridgetop Trail

We stayed right visiting the observation deck first.
Wetlands observation deck

View from the Wetlands Observation Deck

There were a few geese and ducks visible in the distance and a few robins closer by.
Canada geese in the wetlands

Robin

We returned to the junction with the Ridge Trail and turned right onto it to climb to the viewpoint. The Visitor Center was visible across the refuge and a number of ducks and other birds could be seen in the water below. At least some of the ducks looked to be northern shovelers.
RIdgetop Trail

View from the Ridgetop Overlook

Northern Shovelers

We returned to the parking lot after an easy 2.1 mile hike. We plan on returning in the future when the other trails are open to explore more of the refuge and check out the Visitor Center.

We left the refuge and headed south toward our last stop of the day at Willamette Mission State Park.

The site of the former Willamette Mission the 1600 acre park offers a number of activities besides hiking. The mission was established in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee and marked the first organized religious enterprise in Oregon.

We had originally intended on a 2.7 mile hike here as described by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 3rd edition guidebook. Heather had put the book in her pack for the Tualatin Hills Nature Park hike as it was also featured in the guidebook. We hadn’t taken it back out of her pack so we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to park for the described hike so after paying the $5 day use fee at the entrance booth we immediately turned right into a parking area with a hiker symbol.

The lot serves as a trailhead for the Willamette Vision Education Trail, which was not where our book called for us to start but we were already parked so we decided to improvise.
Willamette Mission State Park Trailhead

We followed a bark path .1 miles to the start of a loop where we turned right.
Willamette Vision Educational Trail

Interpretive sign along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail

The trail followed a road bed for half a mile around a field before arriving at Mission Lake. Along the way we spotted a coyote that quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.
Mission Lake

A little over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at the nations largest black cottonwood.
Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Interpretive sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

While we were admiring the tree an osprey landed in it and while we were watching the osprey we noticed a squirrel in the upper branches as well.
Osprey in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Squirrel in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Osprey and a squirrel sharing the Willamette Mission CottonwoodThe osprey and the squirrel (upper right hand corner).

A short distance from the cottonwood the loop crossed the park entrance road. In order to do the hike that we had originally intended to do we turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road for a quarter of a mile to a boat launch and pet exercise area where we picked up the Mission Trail.
Mission Trail

The Mission Trail followed the bank of Mission Lake for .6 miles to the Mission View Site, an observation deck looking across the lake to the site of the former mission.
Mission Trail

Mission Site viewing platform

Marker for the Willamette Mission

The former Mission Site across Mission Lake

We continued on past the Mission Site for another quarter mile before arriving at a the end of the Mission Trail at a paved bike path. We turned right detouring a quarter mile off the loop to visit the Wheatland Ferry crossing on the Willamette River.
Wheatland Ferry

After watching the ferry cross once we headed back along the bike path and followed it along the Willamette River for almost a mile and a half before veering right onto an equestrian trail. Although the bike path paralleled the river there were no real views to speak of due to a strip of trees and vegetation between the path and the water.
Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We opted to follow the multi-use dirt path instead of the paved bike path since pavement seems to be a lot harder on the feet. Despite being a bit muddy in spots the equestrian trail did finally provide a nice view up and down the Willamette.
Equestrian trail in Willamette Mission State Park

Willamette River

Willamette River

Just prior to reaching the high water channel the equestrian trail came near to the bike path. Staying on the equestrian trail would have taken us to the start of a three mile loop with no opportunity to get back to our car so we hopped back onto the bike path here.
Equestrian trail and the bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We then followed the bike path back to the park entrance road.
Willamette Mission State Park

On our way back to the car we did complete the Willamette Vision Education Trail loop but that final 1.4 mile segment was fairly uneventful. The trail loops around a field with views back toward the center of the park. By that time we were passing the 13 mile mark for the day (we had planned on doing 9.2) and I was more focused on my feet than taking pictures. Not only had we started at the wrong spot but the guidebook would have had us cut out some of the bike path and all of the equestrian trail. Instead of 2.7 miles for this stop we had flipped the numbers and done 7.2.

We enjoyed all three stops but the Tualatin Hills Nature Park was definitely our favorite. With that being said they all would be suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities and each offers something unique. We’re lucky to have so many options within an hour of Salem and there are many more that we have yet to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tualatin Hills NP, Tualatin River NWR, Willamette Mission SP

Categories
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

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Champoeg Heritage Area

Since 2010 we have been closing out the year by taking our final hike along the coast or in the coastal mountain range, but this year that streak came to an end. Recent storms and heavy rains that damaged roads and left creeks and rivers swollen caused us to rethink our original plan to visit Fort Clatsop near Astoria Oregon. Instead we decided to put our fallback hike into play and visit Champoeg State Park.

Champoeg State Park is located along the Willamette River less than a ten minute drive from Interstate 5 at the Donald exit between Portland and Salem. The 622 acre park is at the site where Oregon’s first provisional government was formed by vote in 1843. On May 2nd of that year 100 men arrived at the Hudson’s Bay store to decide if they would form an American style government or stay aligned with Britain. The group consisted of Americans,¬†Britons, and French-Canadians. The vote was initially tied 50/50, but two undecided French-Canadians eventually chose to vote with the Americans breaking the tie.

By 1860 Champoeg consisted of 200 buildings but in December of 1861 the river flooded when it rose by 55 feet and effectively wiped out the townsite. No lives were lost in the flood but it marked the end of the bustling town.

We parked in the Riverside Parking area located at the northeast end of the park planning on starting our hike on the .5 mile riverside loop.
Champoeg Heritage Area Trailhead The recent rains had left the park a bit waterlogged and we found portions of the trail underwater. IMG_2733

IMG_2734 We made our way around this first obstacle and climbed a small hill to the Pioneer Memorial Building. Champoeg Pioneer Memorial Building

A 1901 memorial commemorating the 1843 vote sits in front of the building.
IMG_2738 We set off on the Riverside Loop next to a muddy and swollen Willamette River. IMG_2745

IMG_2743 The loop wasn’t possible on this day due to several flood portions, but we walked the portions that were accessible. Flooded trail in Champoeg State Park

We returned to the memorial and headed west on the Townsite Trail, a 1.5 mile barkdust path that led to the Park’s campground.
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Townsite Trail We followed the path to a backed up Champoeg Creek and crossed on the road bridge leading to the campground. IMG_2763

IMG_2765 From the campground a paved bike path leads 2.4 miles to the Historic Butteville Store. Established in 1863 it the oldest operating store in the State although it closes in the winter. IMG_2766

Two short hiker only side trails split from the bike path near the far end of the campground.
IMG_2769 The first led to the grave site of Kitty Newell while the other was the short .4 mile Nature Trail Loop. IMG_2771

The bike path was clear of water and we followed it along the Willamette. Houses lined the far side of the river, but on our side was a mossy forest.
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The final .6 miles to the store require some road walking, first along narrow Schuler Rd then downhill on what was a busy Butteville Rd.
IMG_2782 On our way back we remained on the paved bike path after recrossing Champoeg Creek. This route would bring us back on a loop around open farmland and the park’s Frisbee golf course. IMG_2797

We spotted a number of birds along this portion including an Acorn Woodpecker.
IMG_2788 Acorn Woodpecker

IMG_2803 Near the end of the loop we spotted a tree with markers showing the water levels during the 1861 flood and the more recent 1996 flood. IMG_2804

Highwater makers for the 1861 & 1996 floods. We lived in Monmouth, OR in 1996 so we remembered the 1996 event. It was hard to fathom how much more water there would have needed to be to reach that 1861 mark. We finished up our hike and began to drive back out of the park, but as we were sitting at a stop sign I looked out the passenger window to see an American Kestrel sitting in a tree only 10 feet away. I reached back for the camera only to realize I had put it in the back of the car. As a rule I keep it in the back seat because of the amount of wildlife we seem to wind up seeing from the car instead of on the hikes, but I hadn’t this time. The kestrel flew off and landed in another tree a little further away, so I hopped out and got the camera out of the back in hopes of getting a picture. It changed trees one more time before I was able to jog over to the bike path (which just happened to pass near the road here) and get a semi decent photo. Americn Kestrel

This wasn’t one of our typical hikes, but knowing the history of the area made it an interesting hike. If you’re interested in more information on this area or for other historical Oregon hikes check out Hiking Oregon’s History by William L. Sullivan.

Happy Trails and Merry Christmas!
Little Christmas Tree in Champoeg State Park

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660242747654