Road Trip: Springfield

October 20, 2016 (Updated October 21, 2016)

Springfield is often mentioned in the same breath as Eugene, the two cities forming the state’s second-largest metro area. But Springfield deserves its own spotlight, because there’s plenty to discover in this vibrant community surrounded by what seems like an endless expanse of rivers and woods.

Paint the Town: Boutiques and antiques thrive on Main Street, along with Northwest food and brews at Plank Town Brewing Company. The downtown is made even more colorful by its artful murals, such as the one depicting acclaimed author, journalist and ’60s icon Ken Kesey, who was raised on a nearby dairy farm. The “Official Simpsons Mural” on the side of the Emerald Art Center honors the famous yellow family of fictional Springfield, created by Oregonian Matt Groening.

On Fridays, local farmers and food entrepreneurs gather at the Sprout! Regional Food Hub, a renovated historic church turned restaurant incubator. One of its success stories is 100 Mile Bakery, which makes breads, pastries and sandwiches from ingredients sourced within 100 miles.

Rich With Rivers: Set off for an afternoon or for several days on the Willamette Water Trail, a paddling route that maps out launches and public properties where you can camp riverside. The water trail encompasses more than 200 miles of rivers that all converge near Springfield: the main stem Willamette, the Coast Fork Willamette, the Middle Fork Willamette and the McKenzie. The 10-mile Cloverdale to Mt. Pigsah stretch on the Coast Fork makes a nice day trip, floating through a lightly traveled, woodsy bottomland of willows and cottonwoods.

More Water: Southeast of Springfield, the Middle Fork Willamette widens into Dexter and Lookout Point reservoirs, two broad bodies of water popular for boating and fishing. State parks and recreation areas like the Lowell State Recreation Site offer easy water access. Several covered bridges hide among the hilly back roads. Learn more about Lane County’s many covered bridges (it has more than any other county west of the Mississippi) at the interpretive center next to the 1945 Lowell Bridge.

At Lively Park, Splash! brings the watery fun indoors, a year-round water park with waterslides, a wave pool and dunk tank, along with laps swims and a spa for the adults.

Go Green: Nature is close at hand at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum. Trails throughout the 209-acre property teach about the area’s native ecosystems and are just plain pleasant, winding along riverbanks and through wildflower meadows and forest. Hike up to the summit of 1,514-foot-high Mt. Pisgah for views of the undulating Willamette Valley, the Three Sisters and other Cascade peaks in the distance.

You’ll find more beautiful walking paths at the nearby Dorris Ranch Living History Village. The 250-acre property was the nation’s first commercial hazelnut orchard, kicking off what has become an important agricultural product throughout the Willamette Valley. Paths wander through the orchards, along riverside woodlands and to three historic buildings open to the public: a Native American cedar plank house, a replica 1830s fur trapper’s cabin and the site’s original 1852 pioneer homestead.

Extend Your Stay: On the banks of the McKenzie River, the McKenzie Orchards Bed and Breakfast feels like a hybrid B&B/boutique hotel, with five ensuite guest rooms, wine tastings, cooking classes, bike storage and an electric-vehicle charging station.

About The

Tina Lassen
Tina Lassen writes about travel and outdoor recreation for several national publications and websites, and is at work on a guidebook about watching wildlife in North America. She has lived happily in Hood River for more than 20 years.