From time to time, the Willamette River decides that its old channel, which it decided to abandon in favor of a new channel in the 1860s, is in fact not so bad. When it decides to return to its former route, it floods the road leading into the main parking area as well as some of the trails.
When the river is this high, generally the gates are closed so that people don't drive into a bad situation. This doesn't necessarily mean that you are not allowed to walk in. However, it does mean that they don't want people to drive into the water and get stuck, and cause a bit of an environmental problem at the same time.
Apparently the flooded road does make a good feeding platform for blue heron.
You can park at the top of the hill and walk as far as you can, but just be careful that you are not walking into a bad situation. If you do this while the river level is still rising, you may find yourself on an island, or otherwise in a dangerous situation or isolated from the mainland.
The lowest part of the park road system is the entrance near mission lake (see photo). Even with the water as high as is pictured here, it is still possible to enter and leave the island by going through the entrance at the Wheatland Ferry. However, if the water continues to rise from this point, the island (which isn't normally an island in the dry season) will continue to shrink. Therefore, be very careful if you are here during a high water period.
After the flooding of the island, be prepared for the results. Photo 4 shows deep mud on one of the bike trails, while photo 5 shows deep mud on the mission site viewing platform.
As stated in publicly posted signs throughout the park, cougars have been sighted here. The signs give tips on how to deal with this situation:
+ Don't run. Running indicates "I think I might be lunch" and thus the cougars are more likely to chase and attack something that is running away from them.
+ Talk or otherwise make noise while you walk, so that you don't scare them. In fact, this lets them know that you are coming, so they can run and hide from you, and probably will not attack you.
+ If attacked, fight back. Possibly the Cougar will decide you aren't a victom after all.
+ Do your best to appear large. This is a good time to use an umbrella! (as well as with the above point!)
+ Keep children close by, and don't let your pet run around loose.
+ AVOID HIKING ALONE ON THE TRAILS
Sightings most recently reported were May 1, 2008 and July 11th, 2008.
For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page