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A Steady Stream of Color

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM

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This week's "Grant's Getaway" offers a unique adventure for folks searching for just the right place to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the fall season.

You'll enjoy hiking trails, crimson-colored fall leaves and spawning salmon in an educational backdrop at an overlooked recreation area not far from Portland.

You'll want to bring your camera to capture the steady stream of color along the Salmon River that flows through the Wildwood Recreation Area near Welches, Oregon.


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Many parts of the Cascade Mountains demand a slower pace. You simply see more when you leave busy campgrounds behind and let quieter, wilder moments surround you.

Those moments are easy to come by down the many trails inside the Wildwood Recreation Site near Welches, Oregon.

A site that may have you wondering, "How is it I've never heard of this place or visited it before?"

After all, the Salmon River is born from glaciers atop Mt Hood and it is Oregon's last undimmed river that flows unhindered from the mountains to the sea.


It cuts a beeline through more than five hundred acres of designated public recreation land at Wildwood.

Adam Milnor, a BLM Recreation Specialist, said that most people are in a big hurry to reach Mt Hood or Central Oregon and simply overlook Wildwood.

"Mt Hood beckons to everyone who lives in the Portland area and that's understandable; it's a hugely popular draw. But - it's also a mistake not to pull in and see what this site has to offer. We have such a great place for families to introduce their children to the outdoors with a rushing river, salmon and fantastic trees in a beautiful forest."

The trails that wind through Wildwood are marvelous opportunities to explore the parkland.

The Wildwood Wetlands Trail is a one-mile loop of gravel and paved footpaths plus an elevated boardwalk that give you access to the heart of a vast wetland area where many different wildlife species live.

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Observation decks extend into the wetland at a number of locations and allow closer inspection.

Don't be surprised while hiking the boardwalk to see blue herons, mallards, teals, turtles, or any number of small songbirds.

Pay special attention to the many interpretive signs that describe the wetland habitat and the critters that live there.

"A wetland eco-system is something you have to really see up close to get really fascinated with it. Building this structure really allows you to really get up close and personal to it in a way that you wouldn't otherwise."

There are more than 1,000 feet to the boardwalk on the Wildwood Wetlands Trail that was built four feet off the ground to keep hiker's feet dry and limit access onto the sensitive wetlands.

Beginning in mid-October, the boardwalk area explodes to life with a colorful show of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows from vine maple, big leaf maple trees and alder trees.


The Cascade Streamwatch Trail is a barrier-free and paved, three-quarter-mile trail adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. Interpretive displays describe points of interest.

The most remarkable highlight of this trail is a stream-profile viewing chamber where you gain an underwater "fish-eye" view of a small stream and salmon habitat.


The chamber--ten years in the making--drops twelve feet below the water surface and allows you to see through two large windows more than twelve feet across and seven feet high where 'baby' salmon live.

I enjoy just watching the behavior of the three- to four-inch salmon fry and how they use logs, branches, and even rocks to hide. As a bug floats on the current, a fish jets out and picks it off, then retreats back to its shelter.

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"We love the fish and we want to protect the fish," noted Donna Hansen, Wildwood Park Ranger. "If visitors go to the river and they come at the right time of year, they actually get to see fish too. The salmon spawn throughout the Salmon River from October through November. People like to see that."

The park is open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset from mid-May to early November. However, during the off-season, you may park at the gate and access Wildwood and Cascade Streamwatch by foot, walking the entrance road to the trailhead or other facilities.