Between highway 51 (the main north-south highway through town) and the Willamette River, this park is built on a slope that lends itself to be a natural ampitheatre shape. It is not extremely surprising that such an outdoor ampitheatre was constructed into the slope of the ground.
This ampitheatre hosts a number of events, including Independence Day celebrations on July 4th, and a fairly long summer outdoor concert and movie series through July and August.
There is a playground and open grass towards the north side of the parking area and north of the natural ampitheatre area.
The park also features a fountain welcoming visitors to the city of Independence, public restrooms, a playground, boat ramp with spaces for about 20 vehicles with trailers, open grass areas outside the ampitheatre area, and a beach.
Beach size and access, however, depends highly on the level of the Willamette River. Under the high water conditions, there simply isn't much of a beach here. Indeed, if the water level is extremely high parts of the park will be covered in water as well.
However, it is a failry attractive little park and is a center to live in Independence.
There is a community effort underway to purchase land to the north of the park and create a off-leash dog park area.
There are two highly endangered species of butterfly just in western Oregon alone. Worldwide, there are many thousands of other types of this highly delicate looking, and stunningly beautiful, creature that face threats to its species survival.
Wins of Wonder is one of the licensed butterfly farms that helps preserve these amazing little (and in some cases not so little...) insects, and has live butterflies housed in open greenhouses for the public to enjoy them - while they are alive (all too often, butterflies have their wings torn off to use as decorations of various things - another threat to their survival). Most of the butterflies shown here are tropical colorful types, but operating inside the facility there is also a breeding and preservation program for the local Ladysmith butterfly.
While the entrance price may seem a bit high for the small size of the exhibit, keep in mind that Wings of Wonder is entirely privately owned, receives no government subsidy to operate like a public zoo would, and is very much a labor of love.
Some are not that much into the butterflies, but others spend a very long time here, trying to get the perfect photo. If nothing else interests you here about the exhibit it is good photographic practice with an unpredictable subject.
The room at the back of the exhibit space has a very small collection of reptiles, including a few snakes.
Visiting: The price is $8.50 for adults, children $6, with frequent visitor's discount cards available. The exhibit is open from early to mid March to early to mid October, Wednesdays through Sundays. Starting in 2011, to allow adults that wish to enjoy the environment of a tropical paradise the owners have attempted to create, there is now also an adults only day on the first Tuesday of every month only.
Efforts have been made to make the facility as handicapped accessible as possible within the limitations of the existing buildings. It might not be 100% in compliance with Americans with Disability Act requirements (the walkways are quite narrow in many places and some of the grounds are gravel), but it is reasonably close.
Backpacks, bags, purses, strollers, tripods, and other things that may cause troubles with the exhibit or flow of visitors are prohibited. Also, it is required to change camera lenses outside the exhibit area. Photos must be used for personal use only.
No animals are allowed into the exhibit area.
Visitors are given a brief introduction before they are allowed to enter, and there are three layers of locked doors through which one must pass in order to prevent the butterflies from escaping. When exiting, there is also an inspection area in order to make sure that no butterflies or other animals from the exhibit are hitching a ride on your clothes.
How to Get Here: The best method, of course, depends a lot on where you are coming from, and if the Buena Vista ferry is operating. Wings of Wonder may have an Independence address, but it is actually located south of Independence in the little community of Buena Vista. From the south, take US 20 west through Albany and across the river. Make an immediate right turn onto Spring Hill Drive, and follow it along the river. Turn right onto Buena Vista Road. When you reach the community of Buena Vista (there isn't much to it) look for it along Willamette Ferry Street, approximately two blocks from the ferry itself. From the north, follow signs to Independence, Monmouth and Western Oregon University. From north of Independence, go south on highway 51 and continue through Independence on the same road along the river after 51 turns west. This turns into Corvallis Road. The next road on the left, and located just before a sharp turn to the right, is Buena Vista Road, and it eventually arrives in Buena Vista. Again, look for Wings of Wonder about two blocks west of the Buena Vista ferry on the Willamette River Ferry Road. It is also possible to access Wings of Wonder from the paved road by continuing straight southward, but the parking area from this entrance is very limited. It is best to go into the parking lot on Willamette Ferry Road as it is larger, even though that is the smaller, and unpaved, road.
Cherriots offers bus service in the Salem area, but a more extensive area served less frequently is operated by a service called CARTS - The Marion and Polk County Public Transit Service. The only information about this service available on the web is located on the Cherriots web site.
There are several buses each week work day (weekdays excluding certain holidays) that run from the Salem Transit Center through Independence, through Monmouth, and terminating at Dallas - about 10 miles west of Independence. This is CARTS bus route 40, and it operates five times per day going from Dallas to Salem, and six times a day going from Salem to Dallas.
Standard fare as of this writing is $2, with discounts for certain groups (children, elderly, etc.). A day pass is $4.
Located in one of the older storefronts in Independence that is one block west and north of the main throughfares of the town, the Second Street Mall truly has an eclectic collection of material for sale.
Each individual vendor has a small space in the mall, into which they cram book cases, antique sewing machines, artwork, games, collectors items, unusual signs from the distant and not so distant past, dishes of all types, jewelry, and many many other odds and ends of all sizes and shapes, from any era of the past.
Some of the vendors even say right on their materials "I have a lot more where this came from. Give me a call if you don't find what you are looking for."
What to buy: There is a huge variety in here, and possibly you will find that one very special item that you have been looking for. If you are satisfied with mass produced items from the present, this isn't the place to come.
What to pay: Items are priced to sell, but generally not at a loss. Some items are offered for sale if there is a surplus. You won't be gouged out of your mind, but you won't find the valuable treasures of antiquity for sale for $0.99 as you might at Goodwill or other charity store that doesn't know its values.
In 2008 a new fountain was constructed along highway 51 on the edge of Riverview park. The fountain has "Independence" written on the side of it in large letters, and the purpose of the fountain and the "Welcome Plaza" is to "Welcome people to the City of Independence".
As most of the Riverview city park is not visible from Highway 51 as it is downhill from the road, I am suspicious that the main purpose of the fountain was to make peope slow down and stop and realize there is more to the city than a few stop signs on the highway.
Over the past few years, some modifications to the land north of the fountain has made the fountain and the plaza quite a bit more visible from highway 51 as you are headed south on the road.