By Dante Zuniga-West

While most people associate outdoor adventure with rural wanderlust, heavy backpacks, and glowing campfires, one of the true joys of living in the Springfield area is the fact that outdoor adventure is never too far from your doorstep. Whether you’re a hiker, angler, birdwatcher, or all-around outdoor enthusiast, you needn’t look far to find a little slice of nature near you. We’ve taken the liberty of sharing a few choice picks for short trips that go the extra mile. So load your daypack, fill your water bottle, and go play outside.

Island Park

Located just off Main Street near the Willamalane Adult Activity Center, Island Park’s 14 acres boast a great deal of amenities for folks looking to play outside some place close to home. From the beautiful river frontage, the playground equipment, and the tall cottonwood trees to the outdoor amphitheater and picnic shelters available for rent, Island Park holds a wealth of options. Networks of hiking trails weave alongside the river, and there are plenty of good bank-fishing spots for anglers to enjoy. But it doesn’t stop there—plans are in the works for a new playground and sand play area as well. Get there: Take S Mill St., left onto W A St., destination is on the left.

White water rafting on the McKenzie

Get wet and wild on the McKenzie River with a guided white water rafting excursion. For ages 6 and over, rafters can take a full day or half day float on the rapids with River Trails Guides. Full day raft trips float 14.5 river

miles, and include cold beverages and a fresh deli lunch along the river. Half days cover about 10 river miles and run biggest class III rapids on the McKenzie. 1302 Piper Lane, Eugene • 541/228-4084 •

 Middle Fork Path

Looking to get a good bike ride in? Maybe you are a power walker in need of the next challenge? Or perhaps you’d just prefer a lengthy stroll along the river with some good company. The Middle Fork Path is a 4-mile-long, 10-foot-wide path that goes from Clearwater Park to Dorris Ranch. Traveling alongside the Springfield Mill Race Channel and featuring a pedestrian bridge that stretches over Quarry Creek, the Middle Fork Path is a must-walk route for anyone who appreciates riverfront pathways. A small picnic area and restroom are also located along the path. Get there:  From I-5, take 126 E into Springfield. Take the 42nd St. exit and turn right onto 42nd St. Turn left on Jasper Rd. Turn right onto Clearwater Lane and follow this road all the way to the park at the end of the road.

Horseback riding trails

If you’re looking to saddle up and hit the trail but want to stay closer to town, you have more than a few options.

Elijah Bristow State Park: This Springfield-area park, which bears the name of a Lane County pioneer settler, happens to be a premier public horseback destination. Plenty of picnic sites (some requiring a reservation) punctuate the more than 10 miles of equestrian trail riding and 847 acres of wild spaces to explore. Get there: Get on I-5 S/OR-99 S from Eugene, follow OR-58 to Wheeler Rd.

Take out Painted Pony

McGowan Creek Old-Growth Forest

A bit further out but well worth the drive is a 350-year-old forest of giants. Located roughly 15 miles from downtown Springfield, the McGowan Creek nature trail takes hikers through an isolated stand of old-growth Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and Pacific yews. Beautiful bogs and patches of wildflowers accentuate this swath of colossal trees. This hike is perfect for families and older outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to move at a tempered pace while enjoying the wild. Make sure to bring rain gear and comfortable hiking boots. Get there: Take OR-126 E to 42nd St. and Marcola exit, right off the exit, right onto Marcola Rd., left onto old Mohawk Rd. Old Mohawk Rd. turns into Hill Rd., left onto Donna Rd., left onto Mcgowan Creek Rd. (16-2-27). At the yellow gate, walk ¼ mile to the trailhead on the right.


River floats

If you love cold currents and warm, windy waterways, nothing is more calming than a well-planned float down the river. We’re lucky enough to have two big rivers close to us, and you don’t have to be a certified raft guide or extreme kayaker to hop on an inner tube and go with the flow.

Willamette float: Floating from Clearwater Park in Springfield to Island Park is a low-key and lovely drift. The river snakes through farmland and permits views of Mount Pisgah. To use river terms, no major “sweepers” or “strainers” inhibit the float, and birdwatching aficionados can catch glimpses of everything from herons to goose nests on the sandbars. This is a great float for families and first-timers. Get there: From Eugene, merge onto I-105 E toward I-5/Springfield/Portland, continue on OR-126 E, take the 42nd St./Marcola exit, turn right on N 42nd St., at traffic circle take the 3rd exit onto OR-222 S/Jasper Rd., drive to Clearwater Lane.

McKenzie float: Leaburg Dam in Leaburg to Hendricks Bridge Park in Springfield is a classic Springfield-area float. Not too far, yet still providing the full-on feeling of an outdoor experience, the river varies from shallow to deeper water yet never poses challenging obstacles to deter the novice or recreational floater. Yes, there are good fishing opportunities here, but make sure to check with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for the regulations on catch-and-release. Get there: Leaburg Dam: 90700 Fish Hatchery Rd., Leaburg. Take Camp Creek Rd. to OR-126 E, turn left onto OR-126 E, drive to Fish Hatchery Rd.

NOTE: Remember, you will need two cars to pull this off, one parked at your put-in spot and one parked at your take-out. Be aware that the winding nature of the river means that float time is not equivalent to your drive time.

Walterville Reservoir

Colloquially referred to as Walterville Pond, this 70-acre open water expanse is a haven for anglers and birdwatchers alike. If you enjoy fishing for bass, bluegill, or catfish, this is a solid spot. If you’re the ambitious type, it is not difficult to portage a small canoe or raft about 50 yards past the gate, in order to get away from the shallows and into better fishing. You can also try fishing on the west end of the pond, where the water feeds back into the McKenzie. Use bait as opposed to spinners and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Birdwatchers, keep your eyes open for great blue herons, osprey, Western wood-pewees, pacific loons, and more. Get there: From 58th St. and Main St. (Hwy 126) in Springfield, drive east on Hwy 126 for 6.9 miles to Walterville Reservoir. As you continue east from Walterville for 0.4 miles, you will cross EWEB’s Walterville Canal. At the east end of the bridge over the canal, make a very immediate and sharp left turn onto a road that heads west along the north bank of the canal. Proceed 0.2 miles to the parking area. From the parking area, Walterville Pond is up the slight incline ahead of you to the west.

Wild cutthroat trout fishing

Only 3.6 miles from Springfield, anglers can enjoy the largest tributary of the McKenzie River, the Mohawk River. Although stocking stopped around 1988, the Mohawk River is an incredibly productive system for native cutthroat trout. You can fish the Mohawk River all year round, and the use of bait is permitted during the summer months, up until October 31. Anglers can keep up to two wild trout per day. Fun fact: the Mohawk is also home to a great population of Pacific lampreys, and although you cannot catch these critters in the river, they are a beautifully strange sight to see. Get there: Get on I-5 N, take exit 194A to merge onto OR-126 E toward Springfield, take the 42nd St./Marcola exit, turn left onto N 42nd St., turn right onto Marcola Rd., turn left on Nadeau Rd., then take another left.

Dorris Ranch

This 250-acre living history farm is ideal for a walk in the park. Dorris Ranch is actually the first recognized filbert orchard in the United States, and it is still a fully productive commercial orchard. Make sure to bring your camera, as this is an incredibly scenic location and the orchards are gorgeous. The Masterson Pioneer Homestead and the Northwest Coast Native American Plank House are absolute must-sees. Oh, there is also an 1830s replica of a fur trapper’s cabin that you can check out on your self-guided tour.

Whether your recreational pursuits are by land or by water, you are sure to never run short of ideas while in Springfield. Get there: 205 Dorris St., Springfield. From S A Street, turn right onto S 2nd Street. Follow directions to parking lot.