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Easy walks around Oakridge

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  I’m sure some people will agree with the sentiment that I’ve written enough about me in my last few columns. Fair enough. Enough about me.

How are you doing? Are you holding up OK from those dark winter days? The snow, day after day, and when it’s not snowing, it’s raining. Covid hasn’t gone away, but a lot of people are just over it. You need a break from it all. Get out and get some fresh air. It’s spring- it’s been spring for almost a month. Here are some walks in the Greater Oakridge/Westfir area that anyone that can walk, should walk, even if you’ve done them before.

The Greenwaters Park Trail, by the rest area on Highway 58, is truly a gem. When you pull off the highway, take the left turn and park down beyond the playground. The trail begins at the footbridge spanning the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Although the trail is multi-use, I’ve seen very few bikes on it because, perhaps, it is too tame. It is dog-friendly (though dogs should be on a leash, and, hey, pick up the dog poop) and I have frequently seen people exercising their pets on these trails. It is level as can be, with a nice solid crushed rock, covered with a little organic matter on it. If I march right around, the outside loop takes just over a half an hour to complete. The great thing about the loops at Greenwaters is that the sounds of the rushing waters of the river are always present.

If you park down at the rest area end, you can walk along a very level grade along the east side of Salmon Creek. From the parking area, follow the path west, and back toward the highway. There is an underpass for foot traffic to get to the north side of highway 58. The trail takes you along the banks of the rushing Salmon Creek up to Fish Hatchery Rd. in about ¾ of a mile. Along the way, you’ll pass by the first hole of the Old Mill Disk Golf Course and pass beneath an old spur railroad trestle bridge that once serviced the sawmill. 

If you drive east on 1st Street past Fish Hatchery Road about three-quarters of a mile, you can find the parking area for the trailhead of the Salmon Creek Trail system. The first fifty feet of the trail parallels the driveway to the Flat Creek Work Center. Then the trail heads through the woods along the railroad tracks to Salmon Creek. If you go right, underneath the tracks, you have about 15 minutes of level walking before there’s some up and down. It takes about half an hour to get to Fish Hatchery Road. If you turn left at the river, you can walk a long, level hike through a mixed forest, that has some big Trees along the way. Upstream, or down, you’ll be able to hear water rapidly seeking its own level and have several nice vistas to sit and gaze at Salmon Creek.

For a delightful walk in the sun, go to either of the two new disk golf courses in the area. The Old Mill Course can be accessed off Fish Hatchery Road or Roaring Rapids Way. The Office Bridge course in Westfir is located at the site of the former Westfir Sawmill. Cross the Office Covered Bridge, the longest single span covered bridge in Oregon, to get to the parking area. All the buildings are gone now, but some of the structures near the river, the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River, are still visible. Walking these courses, with no disks in hand, costs the same as playing the game- nothing. If you are just out for a stroll, please be respectful and courteous to the disk golfers out there playing.

I picked out some walks that just about anyone can do- nice and flat, with a rushing water soundtrack. I’d tell you where the tougher trails are, but if you’re a real hiker, you already know where they’re at. Sometime before summer, I’ll give you my favorites. In the meantime, get out and breathe that fresh air!     

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo


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