Take a walk on the wild side

Marion and Polk counties offer variety of walking paths

Located off Highway 22, west of Salem in Polk County on Mill Creek Road, Buell Park offers scenic trails along waterways, as well as an abundance of wildlife.

Dawn Feldman
Located off Highway 22, west of Salem in Polk County on Mill Creek Road, Buell Park offers scenic trails along waterways, as well as an abundance of wildlife.

Want to take a few great summer walks?

To enjoy the great outdoors look no further than the local parks of Marion and Polk counties.

“The warm water of Butte Creek, the swimming hole below the natural rock waterfall, and woodsy appearance of Scotts Mills Park are features that bring people there for summer fun,” as described on the Marion County website. The park is just 23 miles from Salem by taking Silverton Road to Scotts Mills.

“There’s a very lovely path at Scotts Mills,” says Marion County Parks Commissioner Marty Heyen, a recent park visitor. “When you first get there, there’s a path that takes you to a beautiful view of the waterfalls.”

Heyen also loves to ride her bike along the pathway at Eola Bend, a two-mile loop trail that can only be accessed through Minto Brown Park in Salem.

Russ Dilley, the parks program coordinator for Marion County Public Works, says the Eola Bend dirt pathway provides great views of the Willamette River as well as local habitat that live there.

“Along the river is an osprey nest,” Heyen says. “I frequently add this ride to my Minto ride.”

She cautions the lack of restrooms at Eola Bend may cause a problem for some senior walkers.

“But there are picnic tables,” she says. “And it’s right along the Willamette River.”

To gear up for her walk, Heyen tries to get as much information beforehand about the trail.

“I always have a hat, a walking stick, plenty of water, snacks and, of course, a camera,” she says.

“Also, always take a buddy,” she advises. “It’s not best to hike alone.”

Her goal is to visit every Marion County park over the next year to help her with her role on the parks commission, which, she says, still has room for one more commissioner. More information on the volunteer position is available at volun-teer.co.marion.or.us.

Dilley also recommends visiting Joryville Park, south of Salem, with several equestrian and pedestrian trails from the base to the top of the hill. Access to the trails is via a roadway that runs along the base of the park or the roadway that runs up the hill, he says.

“The roadway going up the hill is at a good incline and provides quite a workout,” he adds.

Just seven miles east of Mill City, Niagara Park’s Powder House trail is about a quarter of a mile and runs along the North Santiam River.

“Interpretive signage has been installed in the past few years pointing out the many features of the park,” Dilley says. “The trail is relatively flat.”

Also east of Salem near Mehama is North Fork Park, with beach access provided by a service road from the parking lot as well as several trails that start in the parking lot or off the service road.

“The trails meander throughout the park, giving visitors great views of the Little North Fork of Santiam River and the forest within the park,” Dilley says.

Other parks to explore include:

• Ankeny Rail Trail – South of Salem near Talbot, this park offers a short boardwalk in the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, named after a local bird, the Virginia Rail.

• Aumsville Ponds – The 77-acre site, composed of wetlands and upland buffer areas, flows into Porter Creek, within the Mill Creek Watershed. The park is located 1.5 miles southeast of Aumsville at the intersection of Bates and Bishop roads.

• Spong’s Landing Park – Along the Willamette River north of Salem, this park has hiking trails and an ADA-accessible restroom.

• Bonesteele Park – Located on the Aumsville Highway between Salem and Aumsville, this site, formerly part of a commercial grass field, is being restored to an upland prairie ecosystem.

• Bear Creek – On the Little North Fork of the Santiam River, a trail system has been developed through the park and down to the riverbank to a deep pool available for swimmers.

• Packsaddle Park – Just two miles east of Gates, this park is primarily used by drift boaters, fisherman and sightseers. The park is contiguous to land leased by the State Fish Commission for a salmon egg collection station.

• Salmon Falls – The area is forested, and at the falls site, the Little North Fork of the Santiam River plunges over the rock outcropping about 30 feet to a pool below. The park is one mile above Mehama and 14 miles up North Fork Road.

• Ten Falls Canyon Trail – The trail in Silver Falls State Park, between Silverton and Sublimity, passes by 10 beautiful waterfalls, ranging in height from 27 to 178 feet. Plenty of benches along the well-maintained trail offer walkers a place to rest.

• Rich Guadagno Memorial National Recreation Trail – An overlook on a national wildlife refuge, this Dallas trail teems with wildlife, and offers a great short hike.

• Shellburg and Stassel Falls – In the Santiam foothills near Lyons, these two waterfalls are an easy hike.

• Ritner Creek Park – South on Hwy. 223 onto Burbank Road, left on Gage Road, the Polk County park is near the Ritner Creek Bridge, built in 1926.

• Buell Park – Located off Hwy. 22 west of Salem on Mill Creek Road, this park offers scenic trails and wildlife.

• Nesmith Park – This park is on 21.5 acres adjacent to the Polk County Fairgrounds and offers a variety of scenic trails.

A full list of parks with their amenities, hours of operation and other information is available on the county websites: co.marion.or.us/PW/Parks and co.polk.or.us/ms/polk-county-parks.


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