Recreational Areas

Cougar Dam and Lake. Four miles outside of McKenzie Bridge is the highest embankment dam ever built by the Army Corps of Engineers—452 feet above the streambed. The resulting reservoir, on the South Fork McKenzie River, covers 1,280 acres. The dam generates 25 megawats of power, and includes a fish collection and sorting facility, and a temperature control tower to keep the downstream water at a suitable temperature for spawning. The public recreation areas are in the Willamette National Forest. You can visit the dam year-round, but some campgrounds are open only from April to September. Forest Rd. 19, Willamette National Forest, McKenzie Bridge, OR, 97452. 541/822–3381. Free. June–Sept., daily.

Terwilliger Hot Springs (Cougar Hot Springs). Bring a towel and enjoy the soaking pools in this natural hot-springs area. Located an hour east of Eugene off of Highway 126, the pools are a short hike from the parking area, and include a changing area. Soaking aficionados will find Terwilliger to be rustic, which many regard as an advantage, though the popularity of this beautiful spot can be a drawback. The pools are in a forest of old-growth firs and cedars, and just downstream is a beautiful lagoon complete with waterfall that is also suitable for swimming. Clothing is optional. Off Forest Rd. 19, Blue River, OR, 97413. 541/822–3381. $6. Dawn–dusk.

Willamette National Forest. Stretching 110 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Range, this forest boasts boundless recreation opportunities, including camping, hiking, boating, ATV riding, and winter sports. It extends from the Mt. Jefferson area east of Salem to the Calapooya Mountains northeast of Roseburg, encompassing 1,675,407 acres. 3106 Pierce Pkwy., Suite D, Springfield, OR, 97477. 541/225–6300.


Tokatee Golf Club. Ranked one of the best golf courses in Oregon by Golf Digest, this 18-hole beauty is tucked away near the McKenzie River with views of the Three Sisters Mountains, native ponds, and streams. Tokatee is a Chinook word meaning "a place of restful beauty." The course offers a practice range, carts, lessons, rentals, a coffee shop and snack bar, and Wi-Fi. 54947 McKenzie Hwy., McKenzie Bridge, OR, 97413. 541/822–3220 or 800/452–6376. 18 holes $47; 9 holes $27.

White-water Rafting

High Country Expeditions. Raft the white waters of the McKenzie River on a guided full- or half-day tour. You'll bounce through rapids, admire old-growth forest, and watch osprey and blue herons fishing. The outfit provides life jackets, splash gear, wet suits, booties (if requested), boating equipment, paddling instructions, river safety talk, a three-course riverside meal, and shuttle service back to your vehicle. Full day trips are $90, half-day trips $60. Belknap Hot Springs Resort, 59296 Belknap Springs Rd., McKenzie Bridge, OR, 97488. 541/822–8288 or 888/461–7238.

Recreational Areas

Skinner Butte Park. Rising from the south bank of the Willamette River, this forested enclave provides the best views of any of the city's parks; it also has the greatest historic cachet, since it was here that Eugene Skinner staked the claim that put Eugene on the map. Children can scale a replica of Skinner Butte, uncover fossils, and cool off under a rain circle. Skinner Butte Loop leads to the top of Skinner Butte, traversing sometimes difficult terrain through a mixed-conifer forest. 248 Cheshire Ave., Eugene, OR, 97401. 541/682–4800. Free. Dawn–dusk.

Biking and Jogging

The River Bank Bike Path, originating in Alton Baker Park on the Willamette's north bank, is a level and leisurely introduction to Eugene's topography. It's one of 120 miles of trails in the area. Prefontaine Trail, used by area runners, travels through level fields and forests for 1½ miles.


Willamette Pass. With a summit 6,683 feet high in the Cascade Range, this pass packs an annual average snowfall of 430 inches and has access to 29 ski runs with a vertical drop is 1,563 feet. Four triple chairs and one six-person detachable service the downhill ski areas, and 13 miles of Nordic trails lace the pass. Facilities include a ski shop; day care; a bar and restaurant; and Nordic and downhill rentals, repairs, and instruction. Hwy. 58, 69 miles southeast of Eugene, Eugene, OR, 97733. 541/345–7669. Wed.–Sun. 9–4 during ski season.


Splash! Lively Park Swim Center. This indoor water park has wave surfing and a waterslide. There are family, lap, and kids' pools, as well as a spa, concessions, playground, park, and picnic shelters. 6100 Thurston Rd., Springfield, OR, 97478. 541/736–4244. $7. Daily, hours vary.

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Nestled in old-growth forest, this mountain lake is famed as being remarkably clean and pristine. The lake is accessible only after a short hike, so bring comfortable shoes.

Recreational Areas

Silver Falls State Park. Hidden amid old-growth Douglas firs in the foothills of the Cascades, this is the largest state park in Oregon (8,700 acres). South Falls, roaring over the lip of a mossy basalt bowl into a deep pool 177 feet below, is the main attraction here, but 13 other waterfalls—half of them more than 100 feet high—are accessible to hikers. The best time to visit is in the fall, when vine maples blaze with brilliant color, or early spring, when the forest floor is carpeted with trilliums and yellow violets. There are picnic facilities and a day lodge; in winter you can cross-country ski. Camping facilities include tent and trailer sites, cabins, and a horse camp. 20024 Silver Falls Hwy. S.E., Sublimity, OR, 97381. 503/873–8681 or 800/551–6949. $5 per vehicle. Daily 8am–dusk.

Willamette Mission State Park. Along pastoral lowlands by the Willamette River, this serene park holds the largest black cottonwood tree in the United States. A thick-barked behemoth by a small pond, the 275-year-old tree has upraised arms that bring to mind J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Ents. Site of Reverend Jason Lee's 1834 pioneer mission, the park also offers quiet strolling and picnicking in an old orchard and along the river. The Wheatland Ferry, at the north end of the park, began carrying covered wagons across the Willamette in 1844 and is still in operation today. Wheatland Rd., 8 miles north of Salem, I–5 Exit 263, Salem, OR, 97026. 503/393–1172 or 800/551–6949. $5 per vehicle. Daily 8–5.

Recreational Areas

Siuslaw National Forest. The forest, starting just 2 miles from Corvallis and extending to the coast, includes the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center. Within the park is the highest point in the Coast Range, Mary's Peak (4,097 feet), offering panoramic views of the Cascades, the Willamette Valley, and the rest of the Coast Range. On a clear day you can see as far as the Pacific Ocean. There are several picnicking areas, more than 10 miles of hiking trails, and a small campground, as well as stands of noble fir and alpine meadows. You can access Mary's Peak from Highway 34 between Corvallis and Newport and the central coast. Several other major highways (Highways 26, 6, 18, 26, and 126) also run through the forest between the Willamette Valley and the coast, providing access to recreation areas. Forest office, 3200 S.W. Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR, 97331. 541/750–7000. $5 per vehicle at some recreation sites. Daily dawn–dusk.


Osborn Aquatic Center. This is not your ordinary lap pool. There are waterslides, a water channel, water cannons, and floor geysers. The indoor pools are open all year. 1940 N.W. Highland Dr., Corvallis, OR, 97330. 541/766–7946. $5. Daily, hours vary.

Recreational Areas

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Several miles of trails in this 710-acre floodplain and woods are home to thousands of ducks and geese, deer, otters, beavers, herons, and eagles. Walking trails allow birders and other animal watchers to explore the wetlands for a chance to catch a glimpse of indigenous and migrating creatures in their own habitats. The Education Center has several hands-on exhibits, as well as a real bald eagle's nest that was rescued from the wild, and completely preserved (and sanitized) for public display. No dogs or bicycles are allowed. 2600 S.W. Hillsboro Hwy., Hillsboro, OR, 97123. 503/681–6206. $2 suggested donation. Trails daily dawn–dusk, Education Center daily 10–4.

L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park. This 1,654-acre, full-service park has hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails for day use or overnight camping. There are full hookup sites, tent sites, small cabins, and even a horse camp. Lush rolling hills, forests, and deep canyons are terrific for bird-watching, wildflower walks, and other relaxing pursuits. An 18-hole disc golf course winds its way through a dense forest. In case you don't know, in disc golf players throw a disc at a target and attempt to complete the course with the fewest throws. 30380 N.W. Hwy. 47, Buxton, OR, 97109. 503/324–0606. $5 for day use permit.

Recreational Areas

Scoggin Valley Park and Henry Hagg Lake. This beautiful area in the Coast Range foothills has a 15-mile-long hiking trail that surrounds the lake. Bird-watching is best in spring. Recreational activities include fishing, boating, waterskiing, picnicking, and hiking, and a 10 1/2-mile, well-marked bicycle lane parallels the park's perimeter road. 50250 S.W. Scoggins Valley Rd., Gaston, OR, 97119. 503/846–8715. $6. Mar.–Nov., daily sunrise–sunset.

Tree to Tree Adventure Park. At the first public aerial adventure park in the Pacific Northwest—and only the second of its kind in the United States—the aerial adventure course features 19 zip lines and more than 60 treetop elements and obstacles. You can experience the thrills of moving from platform to platform (tree to tree) via wobbly bridges, tight ropes, Tarzan swings, and more. The courses range from beginner to extreme, with certified and trained instructors providing guidance to adventurers. "Woody's Ziptastic Voyage" zip-line tour features six extreme zip lines (including one that is 1,280 feet long), a bridge, and a 40-foot rappell. Harnesses and helmets are provided, and no open-toed shoes are allowed. Reservations are required. 2975 S.W. Nelson Rd., Gaston, OR, 97119. 503/357–0109. Aerial park $48, zip tour $75. Mar.–mid Nov., daily 9–3 hrs before sunset.

Recreational Areas

Cook Park. On the banks of the Tualatin River in Tiagrd, east of Hillsboro, this 79-acre park is where local suburbanites gather to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, and plays host to the annual Festival of Balloons in June. The park has horseshoe pits, a fishing dock, small boat ramp, picnic shelters, and several walking trails and bike paths. Wildlife includes great blue herons and river otters. 17005 S.W. 92nd Ave., Tigard, OR, 97224. 503/718–2641.