Grant’s Getaways: Fall Wanderings in Oregon

November 10, 2011 (Updated February 17, 2012)

Bald Peak State Park has been a parkland since the 1931 and offers competing views that may steal your heart:

Willamette Valley to the east where Cascade Mountain peaks dominates the horizon on a clear day. Plus, Tualatin Valley to the west – with farms nestled on rising flanks of the Oregon Coast Range Hills. Both views may inspire you at a state park day-use site that soothes the soul during Fall’s quiet times.

These are the fall days when you’d like to shout: “This is why I live here;” Especially when you are on a journey high on the spine of a ridgeline atop Bald Peak State Park, according to OPRD Manager, Bryan Nielsen.

“This park the park was bald – really! It got it’s name from the large meadow here – there were no trees – but that’s sure changed. Trees everywhere now, except the meadow.”

The sweeping views to the Willamette valley are just part of the reason to make Bald Peak State Park a getaway. Towering doug fir trees provide a sheltering canopy to all kinds of picnic tables that stretch out across this seven acre parkland. A perfect place for a picnic lunch; even a family reunion but it may also serves as a launching point for a daylong adventure.

From atop Bald Peak, a wavy ribbon of asphalt carries your four-wheeled land schooner south to Dayton, Oregon. From Dayton, stay on Oregon State Highway 221 for approximately eight miles and pull into Maud Williamson State Park. This is a park that’s entertained families since 1934, when the Williamson family donated the land to Oregon.

“There is an old residence on site that’s no longer occupied and it is the original family farmhouse. Of course, the park is very close to the Wheatland Ferry.

In fact, a quick dash down an intersecting lane to the Wheatland Ferry dock where the Daniel Matheny drops her steel gate – unloads passengers and quickly takes on more for the short ride across the broad Willamette River.

There was a time when ferry travel was a common and necessary experience across and along the length of the Willamette River, but not anymore.

While auto drivers and cyclists will have to pay a small fee for the short journey from shore to shore, pedestrians still ride for free. So consider parking in the adjacent lot and simply walk aboard for a ride across and back.

Once you’ve landed on the Willamette River’s eastern shore, it’s little more than 25 miles to reach a place where bird song replaces the auto sounds.

If you like to hike, you’ve many trails to choose at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge – just south of Salem and off the busy Interstate Highway.

Try on my favorite route called the “Rail Trail” where a wooden lane keeps your feet out of the mud and stretches several hundred yards to reach a wooden view blind. The blind provides shelter but also has a large windows so you can watch the wildlife show in the adjacent ponds and wetlands: ducks, geese, shorebirds – perhaps even a rare peregrine falcon.

That’s the nature of Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – one of three Willamette Valley refuges established in the 60’s to protect habitat. Each consists of wetlands and ponds and open grassy fields, framed by crew cut stubble fields and towering oaks.

From wild lands to parklands, fall wanderings put you in touch with a different pace of Oregon travel.

Editor’s Note: For the best places to catch fall foliage, check out Oregon Fall Foliage blog for regular updates from forest rangers, biologists and leaf peepers like you. You can also get updates on Twitter: @ORFallFoliage and byt phone at 800.547.5445 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Fri.; & 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays)

About The

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.