Willamette Mission State Park Things to Do

  • leading the reinforcements into battle July 4 2009
    leading the reinforcements into battle...
    by glabah
  • two horse riders almost hidden from bicycle trail
    two horse riders almost hidden from...
    by glabah
  • horse riders cross a rocky stream ford 31 Jan 2009
    horse riders cross a rocky stream ford...
    by glabah

Most Recent Things to Do in Willamette Mission State Park

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    Filbert Collecting

    by glabah Updated Nov 29, 2009

    In mid-September, you will find that the area around the Filbert Orchard has a large number of people gathering the "wild" filberts that fall to the ground in this area.

    The "orchard" as it were has been pretty much abandoned to the wills of the wild, though some pruning does happen from time to time.

    Although supposedly removal of material from State Parks is illegal, no one seems to mind that people collect the fallen filberts, and it is one of the recreational activities that people engage in here, at least in mid-September.

    people pick fallen filberts from ground, mid-Sept. people pick fallen filberts from ground, mid-Sept. people pick fallen filberts from ground, mid-Sept. people pick fallen filberts from ground, mid-Sept.

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    outdoor volley ball nets and courts

    by glabah Updated Jul 24, 2009

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    There are four volley ball courts scattered through the central area of Willamette Mission State Park. Other than they are here for people to enjoy, and some have covered picnic areas nearby, there isn't too much to say about them.

    It is, however, certainly one thing that is in Willamette Mission State Park to do!

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    The state park web site features a map with all the volley ball net locations.

    These nets seem to be set up and maintained almost all year long.

    volleyball net near Mission Lake A picnic area volleyball net near Stair Steps Picnic Area volleyball net and picnic tables ready for visitor shaded volley ball net already set up for play Mission Lake B picnic area volleyball sand and net
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    Wheelchair Accessible Fishing Dock (wildlife view)

    by glabah Updated Jul 24, 2009

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    While this dock is designed to provide a fishing location for those who can not walk easily, or are even wheelchair, fishing is not the only reason to come down here. The dock provides a nice viewing platform for a considerable portion of mission lake. Bring binoculars and other telephoto equipment, as you may need to look down the lake fairly far at something interesting.

    There is a paved pathway to the dock that weaves back and forth to allow for the regulation wheelchair ramp incline. However, the surface is still a bit rough, and the path is fairly narrow, with sharp curves. I would recommend checking carefully if you can get your wheelchair down this path before you get stuck here!

    The dock incline changes from wet to dry season.

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    Accessible Fishing Dock: also good wildlife view Looking West from end of Accessible Fishing Dock Looking East from end of Accessible Fishing Dock paved path down to Accessible Fishing Dock looking west in summer, Accessible Fishing Dock
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    • Fishing

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    Civil War Battle Re-Enactment

    by glabah Updated Jul 21, 2009

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    Every year, around or on the 4th of July, the Northwest Civil War Council does one of its battle re-enactments here at Willamette Mission State Park. The exact schedule events depends on what dates are available that year, so it is best to check the web site below for details.

    The battle re-enactment is a fairly thorough affair, with the only non-period instruments allowed in the area of the battle re-enactment are the parks department maintenance vehicles, a few rubber tired transport machines (such as trailers to move food), bleachers for the crowd to sit on, and an electric PA system for the announcer to explain events and make announcemnts.

    People do take the period part of this event very seriously, and you are not allowed to touch things unless you ask. Many of the "period" instruments are in fact true historical treasures from the Civil War era.

    Vendors do arrive and sell their goods in the location, but they must, as much as possible, be in period attire and be selling items in facilities that are true to the period as well. In other words, canvas tents and all that are required.

    There is an admission fee beyond the $3 per car state park admission charge. In 2009 the admission fee was $6 per adult.

    Events include a wide range of activities, and are not just limited to the Civil War Battle re-enactment. There are medical demonstrations of the time, and various other events. Except for not going into any closed tent, people are allowed to tour the various camps and experience history as it was on a Civil War battlefield - including civilian camps (there were civilians that followed every military unit and made a substantial establishment unto themselves) and the military camps. The exception is that most everything is closed during the battle demonstration, as it requires everyone to be on hand.

    This is a huge event, so be prepared for a large, crowded parking lot. There is little shade in the areas near the battle field, so take sun screen, a hat, and whatever else is appropriate given the weather. You may also want to bring your own folding chair, or blanket to sit on.

    The official day for the event is July 4th, but it does depend a bit on what day the 4th falls on that particular year. For example, in 2009, the 4th of July was on Saturday. Friday the 3rd was also an official day off, and therefore the Civil War Battle Re-Enactment happened on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, with an evening dance (after the park closed) on the evening of the 3rd and 4th.

    A Typical Schedule:
    The following is based on the published timetable for the July, 2009 battles. From one year to another, things may change somewhat.

    9am - Event Open to Public
    9am - Morning Parade, featuring all military camps (30 minutes earlier on Sunday)
    9:30 am - Sunday Church Service (Sunday only)
    11am - First Battle
    12 - Artillery Demonstration
    12:30 - Union Medical Demonstration
    12:30 - Speaker's Forum (Sunday only)
    1 pm - Music Demonstration
    1 pm - The Civil War in Oregon (Saturday only)
    2 pm - 19th Century Fashion Show
    3 pm - Second Battle
    4 pm - "Touched by Fire" Historical Theatre (Friday only)
    4:30 - Confederate Hospital Demonstration (Friday and Saturday only)
    6 pm - Event Closes to Public

    To provide even more indication of what goes on during the Civil War Battle Re-enactments, I have put up 3 videos from the July 4, 2009 series of battles:
    Civil War Battle Sample a short piece of action that illustrates the type of thing you will see here during the battle.
    Action Gets Close to the Audience - including firing a cannon about 3 feet from the viewers!
    Loading and Firing a Cannon - Civil War era shooting was not a very fast series of events, due to the need to manually load each piece, and wait for the gun barrel to cool down. This series of motions is seen in this video.

    The Concil has several other civil war battle re-enactments in several other areas, but this is the only one at Willamette Mission State Park, and it only happens once a year.

    leading the reinforcements into battle July 4 2009 pre-battle annoucements and Civil War education Civil War era camps re-enacted and reproduced here modern visitor to Civil War era military gun camp Civil War era battle scene, in front of audience
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    Horse Trails in Willamette Mission State Park

    by glabah Updated Feb 3, 2009

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    Many of the trails in Willamette Mission State Park are horse trails. Some of these trails allow bicycles and pedestrians as well, while others only allow horses and pedestrians.

    As horses may be easily frightened, the trail protocal (as stated on the signs in the park) say that in those places where horses, pedestrians and bicycles may interact, everyone should yield to the horse. This is to help prevent injuries should something startle a horse. Bicycles in particular, because they are quick and quiet, are of a particular concern on the horse trails.

    The vast majority of the horse trails are failry loose dirt that has been stirred up for quite a number of years by many horse riders.

    There are one or two areas where the horse trails ford fairly rocky stream beds. In a few other places, some fairly deep holes have opened up due to animal digging along the trail. Therefore, I definitely suggest being very careful you ride through one of the loops, and check to make sure that there isn't something in the trail that could injure your horse.

    horse and rider near horse camp area of park typical horse trail, Willamette Mission State Park mixed use trails should follow yield protocol horse riders cross a rocky stream ford 31 Jan 2009 two horse riders almost hidden from bicycle trail
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    Picnic: Covered or Shaded

    by glabah Updated Oct 7, 2008

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    While any good park should have some benches and picnic tables, Willamette Park has quite good facilities. There are a large number of shaded areas with picnic tables, plus several picnic structures for true shelter in really bad weather.

    Mission Lake A and Mission Lake B are two of the areas where there are covered picnic areas, as well as lots of picnic tables under the trees.

    The park entrance area near the bird blind also has picnic tables under the trees there, as does the Willamette Educational Trail side of the Willamette Mission Cottonwood.

    There are several benches along the Willamette River and the lakes in the park, but as seen in photo 4 some of them only have a very limited view due to tree growth. If you want to stay in those areas, then you may want to bring your own portable chair.

    There is a $25 fee for using the charcol grill in the shelter, but this is because the 2 foot by 3 foot fire pit is really intended for large groups.

    Mission Lake A or B are picnic areas with shelters bench on north side with view of Willamette River shaded picnic area near Willamette Mission entry bench along bike path with blocked view of river shaded or sheltered picnic areas near Mission Lake
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    Willamette Mission Cottonwood: USA's biggest

    by glabah Updated Oct 7, 2008

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    In 1735, give or take some years, this impressive tree started growing, and continues growing to this day. The Mission Lake viewpoint of the tree allows for a complete view from top to bottom, while the Willamette Vision Educational Trail side of the tree allows for a closeup view of the impressive trunk of this tree.

    This is the USA's largest black cottonwood tree, and is an Oregon heritage tree - basically declaring it a state historical marker.

    The Mission Lake viewpoint of the tree is located on the "island" side of the park, and this route is well marked: just follow the signs to it and to the Mission Lake boat ramp.

    There is no parking anywhere near the viewpoint on the Willamette Vision Educational Trail side of the lake. However, you can get there by walking along the road past the dip in the road, and then turn left and head northwest a few hundred feet.

    You can also park at the Goose Lake Trail parking area, or the trailhead right next to the park office, just after you enter the park, and take the entire Willamette Vision Educational Trail loop.

    The Willamette Vision Educational Trail side of the lake is right near the base of the tree, and has several small historical markers, as well as some primitive picnic facilities. The markers by the boat ramp are much larger and you can see the entire tree from that side, so if you want a photo of you and the entire tree that is where you should go. If you want a photo of you next to the trunk, you need to be on the other side.

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    Willamette Mission Cottonwood: from island side Largest Black Cottonwood from Educational Trail Mission Cottonwood from Willamette Vision Trail small picnic area at Willamette Mission cottonwood looking up at trunk of Willamette Mission tree
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    Wildlife Viewing Platforms and Entrance Kiosk Area

    by glabah Updated Oct 6, 2008

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    Park entrance kiosks are just plain information boards - except when they are not!

    Turning right into the information kiosk parking area of this park not only gets you to the information kiosk area, where you can get one of the excellent maps of the park and read news about the park, but it is also a picnic area, wildlife viewing area, and trailhead for the Willamette Vision Educational Trail.

    The wildlife viewing platforms face a row of trees that are in a small gully that runs next to the parking area. These two platforms allow visitors to look into the treetops of the trees that are growing in this gully.

    There doesn't appear to be anything particularly attractive about these trees to the local bird life. There is a lot of it around (vultures, hawks, kestrels, and others were around just on one afternoon visit a few days ago!) but without anything particularly interesting in these trees it is just chance that something may roost there. However, your luck may increase with patience: if you quietly watch for a while something is more likely to stop here.

    One of the platforms is a true enclosed bird blind type of platform, while the other is simply an open platform. The bird blind platform has openings at many heights to allow people of any age to see what is going on. Cracks in the boards also allow additional ability to hide while looking out of the blind.

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    shaded picnic area at wildlife viewing decks one wildlife viewing platform is just a plain deck one wildlife viewing platform is a full bird blind bird plind features multiple height viewing holes a treetop view provided by looking through blind
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    Willamette Vision Educational Trail

    by glabah Updated Oct 5, 2008

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    Most people enter the park, and head directly for the main part of the park on the seasonal island next to the river. However, after you pay your fee at the pay booth, turn left into a circular parking lot with a "vault toilet" (ie, pit toilet) and an information kiosk, and two wildlife blinds. This is the trailhead for a 2.5 mile hiking loop around the "mainland" section of the park. Much of this area is the "sustainable farm management area" - in other words, leased to farmers who can follow the state's requirements for farming on state parks land.

    Areas around the edge of this land have also been planted into several types of sections. For example, some are being restored into native forest or native wild flowers, while others are planted as examples of commercial style forest land.

    The most spectacular feature of this trail is the Nation's Largest Black Cottonwood (see separate tip), which is about halfway around the loop.

    Aside of the information kiosk and the toilet, the trailhead also features two wildlife viewing blinds that have a view of the tops of trees that sit in the wetlands below. Your results may vary: sometimes there are birds to see, and many times there aren't.

    Be sure to read the warning about cougars in the park!!!

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    Willamette Vision Educational Trail: dirt path Willamette Educational Trail: bench with farmland Willamette Trail: signs describe ecosystem samples Willamette Trail: ecosystem restoration described Willamette Trail: signs describe ecosystem samples
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    Bike Paths in Willamette Mission State Park

    by glabah Updated Oct 5, 2008

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    Paved Bike Paths form a loop around the main part of the park, with a connection trail northward to the Wheatland Ferry and the north parking lot. There are approximately 4 miles of these paved trails, which run through forest and grassland.

    Warnings:

    + wet leaves are slippery. Be very careful if you have never biked in the rain before on wet pavement with wet leaves. It can be a hazard!

    + the trails are narrow, and there are sharp, blind curves. Be careful and watch for people on the other side of these curves!

    + Read the warning about cougars having been seen in the park!

    + There are a number of dirt trails for horses, but you are not allowed to bike on most of them due to fast, quiet bikes scaring the horses and causing a dangerous situation. Follow the instructions on the signs (which say bikes must yield to horses, and tell you what trails bikes are not allowed to use).

    + Pedestrians are allowed to walk on the bike trails, but watch out for cyclists!

    One of the trails runs along the Willamette River, and provides several view points for looking out over the water. However, for the most part you can not see the river due to the trees between the trail and the water.

    bike path along Willamette River, view of river Bike Path through broad forested area Bike Path in grasslands, note ospray nest in tree narrow Bike Path through tight forest, with leaves narrow Bike Path through tight forest with leaves
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    Mission Ghost Structure Viewing Area

    by glabah Written Oct 4, 2008

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    All original buildings at the Willamette Mission are long gone, and even the Willamett River has changed course since the mission was here. However, in order to give modern visitors some idea of the location of the structures and their size, "Ghost Structures" (steel frames forming the approximate outline of the buildings) have been erected on their original location - or at least as close as possible to their original location, considering the huge changes in the landscape over the years.

    The viewing area is across Mission Lake from the location of the structures. While the viewing area itself is just a platform with some four interpretive signs explaining the history of the location and its significance today, the area also has several picnic tables, and it is a relatively quiet place to come that is far from the main picnic sites in the rest of the park.

    The missionaries arrived in October of 1837, and after some considerable troubles relocated to what is now Salem. By 1841 everything except the shell of the buildings were gone, and were quickly rotting into the ground. The great flood of 1861 washed away many early structures in the Willamette Valley (including the entire community of Champoeg), and that probably included these structures.

    With the removal of all Native Americans to various reservations, the mission could no longer reach out to Native Americans in the way it once had been.

    The mission as an organization does not survive, but what they called the "Oregon Institute" became what is now Willamette University.

    Early Methodist church structure and governance had a significant influence in the way Oregon is now governed, due to their inspiration into the first state constitution.

    For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page

    Ghost Structures as seen from Mission Viewing Area picnic area and tables at Mission Viewing Area one of several interpretive signs at Mission View historical marker at Missiong Viewing Area viewing platform at Mission Viewing Area
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    Civil War reenactment

    by yursparky Written Jul 8, 2006

    Unfortunately, I learned about this one too late this year to attend, but apparantely Northwest Civil War Council hosts a living history and reenactment event at Willamette Mission park every year around 4th of July. So, if you are into civil war era history, this would be the place to go. I'll be there next year with my camera for sure.
    For more info go to nwcwc.org/willmiss.htm or read about it in Salem's Statesman Journal

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