King's Valley Millstone (Avery Park)
Located near the Rose Garden part of Avery Park, this mill stone was one of the first to be used in the southwestern part of the Willamette Valley, and was a great help in making the Willamette Valley a viable place to live. If you can't make the agricultural fields into usable food, then not much is really practical with them. This is especially true in the days before economical long distance transportation really reached the west coast.
Mill stones have to be made from a specific type of stone. The volcanic material found in Oregon generally doesn't work. So, this mill stone was originally quarried in France. It was processed in New York sometime around 1850, then sent around Cape Horn. It arrived in Oregon in 1852 and was sent to the Kings Valley area where it was worked by the Luckiamute River. It remained in operation some 60 years.
Eventually, its significance as a historic artifact was recognized and it was placed on display in Avery Park.
How to Get Here: Avery Park is in the southwest side of Corvallis. Go west to 15th Street and then south to its end after it crosses the Marys River. This is the entrance to the park. The stone is located in the Rose Garden area, which is close to this northern entrance to the park. The nearest bus service is several blocks north of the park, at 15th & Western (essentially on the Oregon State University campus).
- Historical Travel
Bald Hill Natural Area
Not so very far to the west of Corvallis, the housing tracts give way to farm land and some forested hillsides. This will not be this way much longer, and the march of population growth is already filling in much of this land with dense housing and residential streets. Some of this, however, has been preserved as parks devoted to maintaining the natural land, and the Bald hill Natural Area is one of the largest of these places.
Despite the name, the majority of the hill is in fact made up of intermediately aged hardwood forests, rather than being completely void of trees. Some of the eastern slope is lives up to the name "Bald Hill" but most of the hill doesn't.
There is one paved trail that wanders from the parking lot off of Oak Creek Drive all the way south to the parking area at Reservoir Road. This trail also intersects a paved trail running west from the Benton County Fairgrounds called the Midge Cramer Path. The paved north-south trail has a softer surface pathway that parallels it for much of the distance, providing a more cushioned walking or jogging surface.
The rest of the pathways in the natural area are dirt, and are closed in the winter months from horseback riding or bike riding due to the damage done to the wet trails by these activities.
Some of the trails are across private land, and access to these areas may be limited at times, or completely cut off for various reasons.
A barn towards the north end of the area has been converted to a picnic shelter but does not have any picnic tables or benches built into it. It may be rented for various events if desired.
An area near the barn structure is set aside as an off-leash dog area, despite the fact that this generally is detrimental to the wildlife.
The area to the east of the paved north-south trail is open grassland, and here it is possible to see kestrels and northern harriers hunting for mice and other small animals in the tall grass. Various other bird life is visible here but tends to stay in hiding during the times it is busy with human activity.
The only restroom facilities in the park are provided by portable toilets, which are few and far between depending on what else may be going on. There is usually one near the trail intersection to the east of the barn picnic shelter area.
Basic maps of the trails are available on the web site below (look to the left side of the page for "More Photos" and "Map"), and trail maps are also inside the information kiosks at the two major parking areas for the natural area.
How to Get Here: Going west of town on Harrison Blvd (which is a continuation of the main east-west road through the north part of downtown, over which the westbound bridge traffic goes), you will find that when Harrison crosses SW 53rd Street it changes name to NW Oak Creek Drive. Approximately 1 mile after this intersection, be looking for the turn off into the small parking area on the south side of the road. Access may also be gained from the Benton County Fairgrounds off of SW 53rd Street and a half mile (0.8 km) paved trail, or from SW Reservoir Road approximately one mile west of 53rd. The parking area off Reservoir Road is paved and the one off of Oak Creek Drive is currently mostly gravel.
- Hiking and Walking
Assorted Eccentric Sculptures and Public Art
Aside of the sculptures in the plaza between Central Park and The Arts Center, there are a number of other less obvious, but still quite interesting, sculptures and other public art scattered through the city. At least a few of these are on Madison Aveue. This street forms an art corridor of sorts connecting Central Park and The Arts Center with Riverfront Park. North and south along the walkway in Riverfront Park there are various other sculptures, as well as along several streets. The kinematic wind powered bird sculptures at intersections near the Riverfront Park make note of local bird life.
Outside and to the east of The Arts Center is an eccentric mechanical sculpture that moves arms on the top of it and appears to row the air when the crank is turned. This is about 30 feet south of Madison Avenue on 7th Street. (see 1st photo)
Also on Madison Avenue, on the north side of the street, there is a frog scuplture attached to the side of a brick building between 1st and 2nd streets. You will only be able to see the frog if you are on the sidewalk and walking westward. (see 2nd photo)
Some of the artwork is not easy to find. For example, there is the frog sculpture of the above paragraph, and there are a number of photographs, some with poetry beside them, in outdoor picture frames attached to various buildings. Many of these are hidden down side alleyways. See photo 5 for an example of one of these not so very obvious works.
The best thing to do is simply walk down Madison Avenue and keep your eyes open for works of art, both large and small.
- Arts and Culture
Mary's River Natural Park
Preserved wetlands are not that easy to find in the Willamette Valley these days, and there are always pressures to develop more of them. As the city of Corvallis has spread south and west from downtown, they have been able to preserve a few locations, including this 74 acre park along Mary's River southwest of downtown.
Development of this park continues, as seen on January 3, 2009. The parking area is gravel, and the road into the area intended to become the parking lot is quite rough. However, even in its unfinished state, the park is still a reasonably interesting place. You will find some birds of pray visiting here from time to time to look for food.
The main trail in the park is a boardwalk that sits above the soft ground of the preserved field, which may at times flood (Jan 3, 2009 was a very high water day, but the river still hadn't flooded the park - though it was close), but in reality is more useful as a very long raised platform to watch for various wildlife. A few extra feet in height makes a very big difference in being able to see over surrounding bushes and into the distance. This raised pathway runs beside a small stream, with Mary's River visible in the distance. There are several wide spots in the pathway that have interpretive signs - and on January 3, 2009 at least one sign that has yet to be completely installed. The end of this trail is a fairly simple wide spot with a bench and nexting box.
A second "pathway" of sorts leads through the park: it is actually a driveway to a nearby farming business, and people are not permitted to walk past the park boundary on the driveway. However, it does provide an extra location to walk for a short distance.
My first and only visit (so far) to this park was on January 3, 2009. There were a number of smaller, common birds here, but there was one bird of prey (most likely a harrier based on the hovering ability, but for me it was hard to tell based on the view I had). Obviously, the bird was looking for something to eat here, so there must also be smaller animals that also serve as a good food source.
Unfortunately, most of the wildlife that visits here is probably limited to birds, as the surrounding surburban development threatens to completely cut off the park and the river from larger wild lands. An additional problem of sorts is that with the number of nearby houses, the park seems to be quite popular with area residents, and with that many people wandering through the park I can't help but wonder how much wildlife is unwilling to visit.
At the north end of the park, there is a small kiosk that features a somewhat sheltered bench, plus signs describing the park and the surrounding preserved areas.
Upon my visit on January 3, 2009 the restroom facilities consisted of a slatted wall and concrete foundation that were obviously intended to hold portable toilets, but apparently during the winter season these are not put in place.
Approaching Corvallis from the east, take highway US 20 along the south side of Corvallis, to the Philomath and Ocean Beaches direction (I have forgotten the exact wording of the sign). Continue going west to SW Brooklane Drive, where there is a traffic light and left turn lane. Turn left and go south on SW Brooklane Drive. The park will be on your left, but as it is right now is almost impossible to see until you are past it. If you see the boardwalk on your left, or come to SW Brookane Lane (who comes up with these names?) on your left you have gone slightly too far. You can park in the area around SW Brooklane Lane, which is in the middle of the boardwalk.
As seen in photo 4, the driveway into the official parking area for Mary's River Natural Park is fairly rough.
- Hiking and Walking
Take a hike to Proxy Falls
Proxy falls is a lovely hiking destination, especially for people who don't normally hike and can't do really intense trails. It's a nice day trip - car required to get to the trailhead - and a wonderful photo spot. It can be a pretty popular destination though, so try to pick a non-peak time to check it out.
Directions: Along Highway #242, 8.9 miles east of junction with Highway #126 (or about 28 miles west of Sisters along Highway #242). Park along the side of the road at the marked trail for Proxy Falls.
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