NOTE: the local roads on this tip may also be done by Bicycle. However, they are all fairly narrow roads and people drive much too fast for the conditions. The good news is that traffic on most of them is fairly light. You do not want to, nor is it legal to, ride your bike on Interstate 5, which is the route that is best marked with state park signs.
There are a number of different ways to get to Willamette Mission State Park. There is one route that is fairly well marked, and the rest are not extremely well marked.
Interstate 5 and Best Marked Route: Take Interstate 5 to Brooks Exit (number 263). Turn west onto Brooklake Road at end of exit ramp. Cross railroad tracks and River Road at 4-way Stop, and continue straight on Brooklake Road. Brooklake ends at T intersection. Turn right onto Wheatland Road. After approx. 2.5 miles turn left into park entrance . All of these intersections are marked. However, the River Road intersection sign is not extremely visible for those needing to go straight as they are coming from I-5 - it is mostly visible by those coming at the intersection from the north or south on River Road. See photo 2: the sign is pointing down Brooklake Road, and is designed for those coming down River Road. If you are coming from the Freeway, you can't see this sign until you are already going past it, as it is designed for people who need to turn rather than keep going straight.
From Newberg: You don't want to go all the way over to Wilsonville, get on I-5, and then go south. The roads are too much of a mess. Instead, go south on highway 219 (east end of Newberg). In the community of Saint Paul, continue straight on River Road rather than following the highway. At the intersection with French Prairie Road, turn right and continue following River Road. After about 1 mile, turn right onto Matheny Road. At the intersection with Wheatland Road, continue straight (you are now on Wheatland). About 1/4 mile after this intersection, turn right into park entrance.
From McMinnville, Carlton, or Forest Grove: At Dayton, go south on highway 221. After about 8 miles, turn right onto Wheatland Road. Cross Willamette River using Wheatland Ferry. One park entrance is on south side of Wheatland Road just after ferry, but main entrance requires driving east on Wheatland, south at intersection with Matheny Road (stay on Wheatland) and turn right at entrance to park. NOTE that the Wheatland ferry is limited capacity for vehicle length and is a toll ferry.
From Salem: use either the I-5 instructions above, or go north on River Road from downtown Salem to intersection with Brooklake Road.
From Champoeg State Park: from main park entrance turn right, then left (south) onto French Prairie Road. Go south until it hits River Road (about 8 miles) and continue straight at intersection (you are now on River Road). After about 1 mile, turn right onto Matheny Road, straight at intersection with Wheatland Road, and right into park entrance.
NOTE: many of the rural roads in this arrea follow what to us would seem to be illogical name changes. This is because the original road structure was for the farming community. When the roads were rebuilt to be straight, 55 mph speed limit rural paved roads, and otherwise modernized, the intersections were severely changed. The original name structure remains the same, however.
Wheatland Ferry, on Wheatland Road between Willamette Mission State Park and the community of Wheatland, is the only crossing of the Willamette River between Newberg and Salem. The current fee is $1.35 for cars and pickups, $1 for motorcycles, and vehicles that require using the entire ferry, or past a certain weight limit, $18. The maximum length is 63 feet. The weight limit is 80,000 lbs.
The ferry does not run on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and any time the Willamette River is at or above the 16 foot stage.
Multiple crossing tickets are available.
The area on the east end of the Wheatland Ferry is part of Willamette Mission state park. There is an entrance here that feeds directly into the bicycle paths, and on the north side of the road there is also a parking area and a boat ramp. To get to the main entrance of the park by car, you must drive east on Wheatland, south on Wheatland at the intersection with Matheny Road, and then turn right into the park entrance. It is about 1 mile total driving distance.
On the west side of the river, there is a small beach area that offers additional recreational space to those visiting Willamette Mission State Park. Pedestrians and bicyclists are free to cross without paying, as of February 2009.
If you are willing to walk on narrow Wheatland Road from the ferry westward (and this could be a hazardous adventure) you will come to Maud Williamson State Park. However, crossing the Salem-Dayton highway, as well as walking next to narrow Wheatland Road, means this adventure is really best saved for those who are a bit on the adventuresome side.
Despite Willamette Mission State Park not being as frequently visited as a number of other state parks nearby (Silver Falls or Champoeg, for example) the maps and signs in the park are very well maintained, and the responsible parties should be thanked for keeping park visitors so well informed.
(On the other hand, this may also reflect the damage done to such facilities at other parks due to the sheer number of visitors and lack of staff per visitor....)
Just past the entrance to the park, turn right into the parking lot at the wildlife viewing platforms. There is an information kiosk here that features a place to obtain maps of the park, as well as updates about wildlife and other news important for park visitors (for example, the cougar sightings!). This location also features a dispensor for pet waste bags (do please look after your own pet's waste so others don't step in it! It is a matter of common courtesy!)
Scattered through the park, there are also a number of signs with maps indicating your current location, and with color coded trails showing where the horse paths, the bike trails, and hiking trails are located. The maps also show many of the other facilities. Most any major trail junction has these maps.
A really good park map is also located at the Wheatland Ferry entrance to the park (bike path only).
There are 7 miles of horse trails, 4 miles of bike paths, a 1 mile jogging loop, a 2.5 mile educational loop trail, and several other smaller trails that are for foot traffic only.
Thanks to these excellent signs, it is not a problem to find your way around inside this park, no matter what mode of transportation you choose to use while you are here.
Of course the excellent signs don't just include maps of the park, but also explain things that are going on, such as the map and sign describing ecological restoration work (photo 4) and the monument sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood tree.
For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page