Author Archives: the Oregon State Parks Team
Willamette Mission State Park, nestled just north of Salem in the Willamette Valley, is a unique area in the Oregon State Parks network. The park’s 1,329 acres are home to one of the highest quality habitats for diverse wildlife species, such as fish, amphibians and birds. However the park, specifically the floodplain forests that surround the Willamette River, is under threat from invasive plants. Over the past few decades, the forests have been overrun with unwelcome flora.
Willamette Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore the Willamette River, is hoping to stem the invading tide. They’ve been on the ground in Willamette Mission since 2013, fighting to restore 417 acres of vital fish and wildlife habitat. They’ve made progress, but can always use more help. They’re throwing two events in the coming weeks for anyone that wants to come out and get involved:
Rubber Boot Ramble
Saturday Jan. 20, 9:30 a.m. – noon
Join Riverkeeper reps for a family friendly nature walk through the floodplain forest in Willamette Mission State Park. You’ll have opportunities to explore on and off trail, taking in the diverse wildlife that inhabit the river basin. It’s also a great starting point to learn more about the habitat, the challenges it faces and how you can help. To register, visit the event website.
Restoration Work Party
Saturday, Feb. 10, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Want to get your hands dirty? This event is for you. Help Riverkeeper reps and Willamette Mission park staff plant trees and shrubs along the edge of a new floodplain forest. You and your family will also learn about the important role floodplain forests play in the Willamette Valley ecosystem. Tools and work gloves will be provided. To register, visit the event website.
While many of us will be enjoying our shiny new gifts during the upcoming holiday week, another group of mammals has an entirely different goal: migration.
Gray whales have been cruising past the Oregon coast for two weeks now, part of their annual trip south to the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja, Mexico. Starting in chilly Alaskan waters, the whales swim over 6,000 miles down the west coast of North America. Experts estimate about 20,000 gray whales join the migration each year.
To celebrate the occasion, Oregon State Parks is holding the annual Whale Watching Week, December 27-31. Each day 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers will be stationed at 24 points along the coast, ready to help visitors with whale watching tips and provide fun facts about the aquatic creatures.
Not sure where to start? Stop by the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, which is the info hub for all things whales. The center boasts excellent views of the surrounding surf, several whale exhibits, and free maps and brochures.
One of the newest exhibits is a high-definition webcam, which will be used to live stream whale activity every day of the event. The man behind the camera, Ranger Luke Parsons, hopes the technology will—among other things—create a larger awareness and compassion for whales and marine life. The live streams will be broadcast on the Oregon State Parks YouTube channel, http://bit.ly/OregonStateParksYouTube, weather permitting.
“Whales are a special part of the Oregon coast,” said Parsons. “Nearly 20,000 people visit our whale watch sites each winter and are greeted by our excellent volunteers. I hope visitors walk away feeling a little more connected to these animals, along with a greater appreciation of our oceans.”
If you think a day spent spotting gray whales sounds fun, visit whalespoken.wordpress.com for a map of the 24 volunteer-staffed sites. You can also visit oregonstateparks.org for more information about extended stays at one of the coastal state parks.
Free First Day Hikes set for Jan. 1
The First Day Hikes tradition continues New Year’s Day 2018 with our seventh annual event. All 25 hikes in 23 Oregon state parks are free and guided by park rangers or volunteers who will share stories about a park’s geology, history, wildlife and plants. Day-use parking fees are waived for all visitors at participating parks Jan. 1 only.
To see a list of parks hosting hikes and to register for a hike, visit the Oregon State Parks Store, http://bit.ly/ParkStoreEvents. Online registration is new this year–although not required–and will help park staff plan for the hike and provide them with participant contact information should hike details change.
“Bundle up and enjoy your first walk of the year with us,” says Lisa Sumption, Oregon Parks and Recreation director. “First Day Hikes are a fun, healthy way to start 2018 and a great way to see that Oregon state parks are great any time of year.”
Be prepared for inclement weather, dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, bring water and remember to carry binoculars for viewing wildlife. Check the hike listings at http://bit.ly/ParkStoreEvents for details about recommended ages for children hiking and whether pets are allowed.