With only a half-day free ahead of us, my butt-kickingly awesome sidekick, Sarah, and I headed just moments out of town for an adventure. We wanted to take in some fresh air and a little bit of sunshine, as it was trying to break through the clouds, and get a chance to stretch our legs. As my only day off for the week, I felt it essential to break out of the apartment to explore, so after reviewing our bucket list (you can check out the full list below or by clicking here) we turned our compass southeast from Eugene and pulled in to Elijah Bristow State Park.
Named after the first pioneer settler to land in Lane County, Elijah Bristow State Park is only a 15 minute drive along highway 58 from Eugene. The 847-acre park highlights the beautiful Middle Fork of the Willamette River with banks of scattered woodlands, meadows, and marshes.
Getting to the park was a snap, with signs from Highway 58 directing you to the park entrance – but once inside the signage gets a little lost in the thick grassy overlay, yet don’t get discouraged it’s all a part of the adventure.
Well-known for its horse trails, Elijah Bristow has a large equestrian staging area in the Southwest corner of the park, which serves horse riding groups. Hikers and bikers be weary that all but two of the paths are shared-use with the four-legged folks and the yield right-away always goes to the horse riders.
However, the joy of this park is its seclusion and under use – a quiet spot with eerie, mossy trees and empty trails – the ugly step-child of state parks.
With only a few hours to trek, Sarah and I chose to wander the Turtle Trail, a 1-mile loop through the trees along a small stream that joins up with the longer River Trail. With the heavy, spring rain we were only able to make it about half way (or face certain mud death to our hiking shoes), so when the trailed merged with the River Trail, a five mile stretch that goes though the park and continues along the river to Dexter Park further east, we took the turn upstream. As we passed the various little fishing holes along the Willamette River, the sun broke out of the trees shortly to reveal an aqua-blue sheen glowing on the river. Standing there watching the water hastily flow to Eugene, the calamity of the week melted into the pristine waters as it sparkled in the sunshine and if it would have been just a bit warm, I would have jumped in to wash those worries away too – but alas it was way too cold so we continued on.
Middle Fork Willamette River
Instead of continuing to Dexter Park, Sarah and I followed the River Trail as it rounded-back to the far end of the park, where we had luckily parked our car. We had originally hoped to grab this trail at the beginning and walk in the opposite direction, but as with underused parks not all the trail heads are well marked or easily found. Mysteriously flowing into a large flat, grass patch the trail gingerly just ended; however to our relief just ahead of us our car, parked in the shade of a tree, awaited us.
With flat, but scenically varied trails, Elijah Bristow Park offers great, light hiking within an inch of the city. A supposedly “popular” wildlife area for spotting birds, deer, elk, beaver and coyotes, according to the park’s water-bent brochure (more popular with the animals than the crowds of people in my opinion – better for viewing though), this park has a peaceful, hush like a run-down ghost town that welcomes you to explore.
Here are some more photos from our wanderings:
Muddy hoof prints