Saturday, May 7, 2011

Trail Review: Elijah Bristow State Park

(Photo Courtesy of Discover Eugene)
Elijah Bristow State Park proved itself to be a lovely place for a short trail run.  Well-maintained flat single track trails wind their way through pretty meadows, woodlands and wetlands near or along the middle fork of the Willamette River.  These trails are shared by equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers.  My running partner and I weren't sure who'd be on the trails and in what condition we'd find them.  Reports from fellow local runners warned us that trails would be rutted and muddy from the horse traffic and recent rains.  We decided to be adventurous and explore this new area anyway.

Perhaps it was the time of the year, but we were nearly the only ones out there today.  It was quiet, peaceful, overcast and drizzly at times. We shared the park with two hikers and their respective dogs and a lone runner.  It was quiet and peaceful on this overcast Saturday morning in early May.  There were a few puddles, muddy spots and piles of horse poop that we had to skirt around or leap over but other than that, the trails were a delight to run on.  My running partner set out to run between six and eight miles, but it felt so good and easy that we ended up running eleven miles.  They were without a doubt the easiest trail miles that either of us has run. 

38263 Wheeler Road, Dexter Oregon.  Take I-5 South out of Eugene.  Take exit 188A for OR-58/Willamette Hwy toward Oakridge.  Approx. 9.4 miles turn LEFT at Wheeler Road. Turn left into Elijah Bristow State Park. 

Why it's worth the trip:
There are 847 acres of pretty woodland, wetland and meadows to explore on foot, mountain bike or horse back via 10 miles of maintained trails.  This area is home to deer, elk, Western Pond turtle, Heron, Osprey and Bald Eagle.  Not only did we enjoy some nice, easy, highly-runnable trails, but scouted the area as a potential day trip with our families.  We agreed that our children would love hiking and picnicking in this area too.

Here are some more reasons you should check out Elijah Bristow State Park:
  • There are picnic tables and BBQ grills for enjoying lunch before or after your hike. 
  • Clean, fully stocked and equipped restrooms
  • A friend tells me that this is her favorite place for blackberry picking. She says that the bushes are neatly trimmed and the berries aren't sprayed.
  • It's nearly impossible to get lost out here.  There are trail signs, a river flanking one side of the park and all the trails loop back to the main parking lot.
  • Several little ponds to view turtles, salamanders and birds
  • Dog poop station complete with the humorous diagram and explanation of proper scooping
  • It's free! No day use or parking fees.
What to wear and bring:
Your normal running clothes will do.  Layers work well as temperatures fluctuate as you come in and out of tree cover.  I wore my light-weight trail shoes, capris, a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt over top and a hat and was quite comfy.  We brought our own water, but there is piped water in the park.  Since we ran a series of little one to five miles loops near our centrally located car, we didn't need to carry water.  I love hands-free trail running!

Word of warning: 
There was a sign indicating that there had been a cougar sighting in this area last fall.  It gave very specific steps on what to do should one encounter a cougar.  Supposedly there is stinging nettle and blackberry in these parts so be sure to stay on the marked trails and be on the lookout.  With the nearby river and all the ponds, I imagine you'd find lots of pesky mosquitoes during the early summer months.  We didn't see or experience any of those potential hazards today.

Take a Peek!
Western Pond Turtle (photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)
Park namesake, Elijah Bristow was the first white settler in this area of Lane County.
Banks of the middle fork of the Willamette River (Photo courtesy of University of Oregon Environmental Leadership Program)
Invasive vegetation has been a problem since this area was clear cut in the 1960s.  Riparian Restoration Stewardship has been trying to rid the area of invasives and plant natives.  Here's a meadow where  plants are encased in blue tubes to protect them from munching elk and deer. (Photo courtesy of U of O Environmental Leadership Program)
Flat runnable short trails in a pretty setting? Elijah Bristow's your place!

Here's some more information on this charming state park.

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