Waverly Park to Water Gardens Pathway
While not necessarily an attraction in its own right, this pathway connects three reasonably good attractions in Albany together without having to walk beside busy roads - though you do have to cross one.
Waverly Park is fairly easy to find as it is a large park located at the main freeway entrance that leads to downtown Albany. It is an attractive and somewhat popular place but due to the nearby busy roads it isn't the best park.
The Talking Water Gardens is probably Albany's most pleasant park, since it is the one that is the furthest from busy roads.
Connecting the two, however, is this paved trail. The trail is relatively easy to find at the Water Gardens end but it isn't that easy to find at the Waverly Park end of things as it is somewhat hidden on the opposite side of a road.
At the Talking Water Gardens end of the trail, the trail runs along the south side of the water gardens fence from the parking lot going southeast. It is between the bridge at the entrance to the parking area and the water gardens itself. See the first photo.
The trail runs beside a small and somewhat abused stream, and passes under the two railroad lines that run through the area (see photo 2).
A small area along the trail is forested (see photo 3).
The trail exits this forested area on the north side of SE Salem Avenue, in the area of the cemetery that is near Waverly Park. From the boathouse in Waverly Park, walk on the paved trail towards Salem Avenue and then cross Salem Avenue. You will find the trail going towards the Water Gardens hidden between the stream and the cemetery edge.
- Hiking and Walking
Grand Prairie Park
There isn't much to this park beyond the typical city park environment. It has a picnic shelter, a small pond formed by the artificial dam of a creek that runs through the park, and scattered picnic tables with benches. There is a small playground and a small platform that reaches out over the pond. There's lots of open grass. Some of the picnic tables have cooking stands.
The park is also known to be a winter home for about 200 wigeons, some of which are inevitably Eurasian wigeons, and thus of interest to those who have not seen these before. The American wigeon has a green stripe on the head, while the Eurasian has a very bright red head.
For examples of these birds, photographed in February of 2013, please see my Travelogue of the Wigeons in Grand Prairie Park which shows what was on hand on February 9, 2013.
Other than this, there is little to recommend the park to the traveler from the outside.
How to Get Here:
From Highway 99E or 20, go south on Waverly Drive. At Grand Prairie Road, turn right, and then left into the driveway of the park. There is a bus stop at the corner of Waverly and Grand Prairie that has service occasionally during weekdays. The official address is 2530 Grand Prairie Rd SE, Albany, OR 97322
This park has a picnic shelter, a boat ramp, and a fair amount of open grass. Some of the picnic tables outdoors have cooking stands. Other than other park users, the park is fairly quiet as it is several blocks from the nearest road and the area across the river also has no busy roads. Boat traffic noise can sometimes be a problem, but is nowhere near as loud and obnoxious as, say, near Champoeg State Park or other areas in the lower Willamette.
A small stream runs through the park. If you cross the bridge over the stream you will find yourself on a narrow dirt path that goes deeper and deeper into blackberries.
If you walk on the gravel trail that extends to the back part of the park to several remote picnic tables, you will find that there is a narrow trail that wanders up the hill to the end of Cleveland Street. You can use this to go out to Water Avenue and connect to the Dave Clark Trail.
How to Get Here: From I-5 take Highway 99E. At Geary Street go north until it ends at Bowman Park. From downtown Albany go east on Water Avenue to Geary. The nearest bus stops are about 5 blocks south on Salem Avenue.
- Sailing and Boating
Concrete House with Fountain and Koi Pond
On the west side of Geary Street, just as it enters Bowman Park, you will notice a very eccentric house with a large concrete roof that is designed to look like a mountain top. It has a waterfall that comes down the side, and ends in a koi pond. There is a gumball machine that is modified into a koi food dispenser.
Note also the huge concrete mushrooms and other decorations around the house.
How to Get Here: From I-5 take Highway 99E. At Geary Street go north until it ends at Bowman Park, and take sidewalk back to park entrance. From downtown Albany go east on Water Avenue to Geary. The nearest bus stops are about 5 blocks south on Salem Avenue.
- Arts and Culture
Simpson Park and Trail and First Lake
While it is a relatively primitive waterfront trail, this 1.3 mile (2.2 km) trail along the Willamette River is reasonably peaceful most of the time. During much of the year it is not possible to see the Willamette River just on the other side of the dense trees, however.
The park trail divides a small lake off from the river, and this is called "First Lake". Simpson Park has a small craft launch (no motorized craft, and the access point closes at dusk). This boat launch is really only for hand-carried craft anyway as a practical matter.
The majority of the trail is densely packed gravel, and seems to be pretty good even in wet weather. Birders should keep their eyes out for various forest birds, including passing Cedar Waxwings, and Bald Eagles perched on the trees near the river. In winter there are dozens of wigeons on First Lake.
The park is directly across the street from the Talking Water Garden and this area should be explored as well, especially if you are interested in bird life. However, the Talking Water Garden closes at dusk while Simpson Park remains open until 10 (except the small craft launch).
How to Get Here:
The address is 725 NE Waverly, Albany, Oregon, but Waverly isn't a through street from anywhere so the directions are a little messy.
From Interstate 5 take the Highway 99E exit that is on the north side of town, and head west somewhat slightly towards downtown Albany. At the first intersection past Waverly Park (the park on the north side of the road) and after the Budget Inn, turn North onto Waverly Drive just west of Budget Inn. At the end of this road turn West onto Salem Avene, and then make a nearly immediate turn North on Davidson Street. You then cross multiple railroad lines, and then turn east onto Front Avene. This turns into Waverly as it goes around a curve to the north. At the very end of Waverly, just after the one lane bridge, the park is accessed by the gravel parking area. The nearest bus stop is on Salem Avenue near Waverly Park, and there is a concrete sidewalk that runs under the railroad lines at this location that connect this gravel parking area with Salem avenue near this bus stop.
- Hiking and Walking
Go to the Mountains!
Get out of the Willamette Valley (Willamette is the Indian word for 'death'). It's much more beautiful in the nearby mountains!
There are some nice trails up by Santiam Pass on Hwy. 20. (Drive east on 20 out of Albany, through Lebanon and Sweet Home.) I did a day hike up to Square Lake in this area. In October, the trees are colorful up there.
- Hiking and Walking
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