Luckiamute Landing–reflection amidst restoration
Now is a great time to visit Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. The leaves crunch underfoot and the gold fall colors offer a sharp contrast to the blue sky. It’s also early enough that the natural area, which floods when the river runs high in the rainy season, is still dry and open for autumn walks.
Luckiamute (“LUCK-ee-ah-myoot”) is a peaceful, day-use park tucked in the heart of the Willamette Valley. It’s uniquely located at the intersection of three rivers: the Luckiamute, the Santiam and the Willamette, making it valuable riparian (river bank) habitat for many different fish, aquatic animals, and birds. Luckiamute Landing is part of the Willamette River Greenway, a recreational haven that preserves the scenic, historic, natural and agricultural qualities of the river and surrounding land.
Natural areas are special places in the Oregon park system where plants and wildlife take center stage and you can immerse yourself in nature. During the past two years, we’ve worked with the Luckiamute Watershed Council, a coalition of local volunteers, to restore Luckiamute Landing. Together, we removed weeds and blackberry thickets—some as tall as eight feet—and planted 125,000 native trees and shrubs in their place. These native species will attract wildlife and prevent smothering invasive plants from coming back. Oregon State Parks, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Meyer Memorial Trust provided the funds for the restoration.
“This is one of the areas that other agencies and watershed councils are looking at to see how habitat restoration is working,” says Ranger Steve DeGoey. “We have one of the largest and best preserved gallery forests in the Willamette Valley.” A Willamette Valley gallery forest includes old and large cottonwood, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash, red alder and a variety of understory shrubs.
To showcase the evolution of the natural area, park staff has created a series of low-impact trails that pass open fields and meadows or go through shady bottomland groves, with glimpses of the wide Willamette River. In the south section of Luckiamute, short paths take you by native oak savannahs and tranquil ponds that were once gravel pits dug to build the World War II-era Camp Adair; today, they’re critical nesting grounds for the shy western pond turtle, an “at-risk” species. And from the scat you might see on the ground, they’re also home to some active coyotes!
If you’d like to paddle your canoe or kayak down the Luckiamute River, there’s an undeveloped put-in on the west side of Buena Vista Road; now, it’s only a steep bank, but plans are in the works to install a floating dock. From the north trailhead, which is set far back from the main road, you can make a two-mile loop or extend your hike to the gravel beach and rustic boat-in campsite a mile farther on the Willamette. The flat trails are very walkable, which makes Luckiamute Landing a great choice for families and dog owners: just make sure you keep your best friend close by to avoid disturbing wildlife.
Treated with care, Luckiamute Landing can continue to be a place where spirits are restored, along with habitat.
Things to Know If You Go
- Parking is free at all three parking areas. You don’t need a day-use parking permit.
- Vault toilets are available at the paddler access point and the south trailhead.
- Watch for poison oak, which lines the trails throughout the area. At this time of year, poison oak leaves are often red, making it easier to spot.
- Dogs must be leashed during nesting season (April 1-July 31). Please pick up after your pet to ensure that everyone can enjoy the natural area; bags are provided for this purpose at the trailheads.
- The natural area is a sensitive habitat surrounded by active farmland. Please respect private property, stick to trails and avoid entering restricted areas around the ponds.
Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area—park information, maps and driving directions. Luckiamute Landing is within easy reach if you live in the valley or the central coast—it’s an hour drive or less from Salem, Eugene or Corvallis, and under a two-hour drive from Portland, Lincoln City or Newport. The park is located between 99W/Pacific Highway and I-5 N about 5 miles northwest of Albany.