Wildwood Recreation Area
This week’s Grant’s Getaway offers a unique adventure for folks searching for a place to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the fall season.
You’ll enjoy hiking trails, crimson-colored fall leaves and spawning salmon in an educational backdrop at an overlooked recreation area not far from Portland. You’ll want to bring your camera to capture the steady stream of color along the Salmon River that flows through the Wildwood Recreation Area near Welches, Oregon. Many parts of the Cascade Mountains demand a slower pace. You simply see more when you leave busy campgrounds behind and let quieter, wilder moments surround you.
Those moments are easy to come by down the many trails inside the Wildwood Recreation Site near Welches, Oregon. A site that may have you wondering, “How is it I’ve never heard of this place or visited it before?” After all, the Salmon River is born from glaciers atop Mt Hood and it is Oregon’s last undimmed river that flows unhindered from the mountains to the sea.
It cuts a beeline through more than five hundred acres of designated public recreation land at Wildwood. The trails that wind through Wildwood are marvelous opportunities to explore the parkland.
The Wildwood Wetlands Trail is a one-mile loop of gravel and paved foot- paths plus more than a thousand feet of elevated boardwalk that gives you access to the heart of a vast wetland area where many different wildlife species live.
Observation decks extend into the wetland at a number of locations and allow closer inspection. Don’t be surprised while hiking the boardwalk to see blue herons, mallards, teals, turtles, or any number of small songbirds.
Pay special attention to the many interpretive signs that describe the wetland habitat and the critters that live there.
There are more than 1,000 feet to the boardwalk on the Wildwood Wetlands Trail that was built four feet off the ground to keep hiker’s feet dry and limit access onto the sensitive wetlands. Beginning in mid-October, the boardwalk area explodes to life with a colorful show of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows from vine maple, big leaf maple trees and alder trees.
The Cascade Streamwatch Trail is a barrier-free and paved, three-quarter-mile trail adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. Interpretive displays describe points of interest. The most remarkable highlight of this trail is a stream-profile viewing chamber where you gain an underwater “fish-eye” view of a small stream and salmon habitat.
The chamber–ten years in the making–drops twelve feet below the water surface and allows you to see through two large windows more than twelve feet across and seven feet high where ‘baby’ salmon live. I enjoy just watching the behavior of the three- to four-inch salmon fry and how they use logs, branches, and even rocks to hide. As a bug floats on the current, a fish jets out and picks it off, then retreats back to its shelter.
The park is open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset from mid-May to early November. However, during the off-season, you may park at the gate and access Wildwood and Cascade Streamwatch by foot, walking the entrance road to the trailhead or other facilities.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.
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