LINN COUNTY, Ore. — Is it time for you to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday city life? Perhaps unwind on a backcountry byway that will take you into a chapter of Oregon history.
The great pleasure that comes from backcountry travel is what you might find along the way and Oregon offers so many reasons to go on the road; especially where the asphalt turns to gravel and often reveals the state’s scenic secrets.
Across the broad-shouldered Willamette Valley, there are springtime splendors from the unique point of view inside the many covered bridges of Linn County.
Bill Cockerell, spokesperson for Covered Bridge Society of Oregon, joined me for an afternoon tour across Linn County to admire some of the county’s historic covered bridges.
"You think of a covered bridge and you think of horses and buggies," noted Cockerell. “You just want to relive that period of a hundred years ago when times were slower. A romantic time, even if it is in our minds, may not have been true, but it sure feels like it.”
For example, Hannah Covered Bridge is picture-postcard perfect!
Photos: Green Peter Lake
This stunning whitewashed covered bridge was built in 1936 and offers a bit of a Norman Rockwell kind of American moment.
Cockerell said, “People just love this type of bridge because you can look out of it - you can see the fishermen downstream or people swimming too It really is nearly like walking across any uncovered bridge.”
Perhaps stop in at the nearby Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Roaring River Hatchery where you can learn more too.
“Folks come out to look at the fish for sure,” noted Tim Shambers, of ODFW. “But while they’re here we try to show them something new and raise their level of knowledge about what happens at a hatchery. It’s also a fine place to sit, relax and enjoy an afternoon.”
Near Sweet Home, you quickly discover that this Oregon county is huge – gargantuan – expansive as you drive into the Cascade foothills for camping, fishing and a backcountry byway at Green Peter Lake.
Brian Carroll of Linn County Parks, said: “Folks look at the beautiful Willamette Valley, farm country and all, and think that’s all there is to us – but the truth is more than half the county is forested. People are usually surprised to learn that the Willamette National Forest is a large part of the county.”
It is a county that cries out for closer inspection and soon you will discover a bit of unhurried heaven on earth at Green Peter Lake where boating and camping adventures are easy to find.
“It’s remote and yet it’s close,” noted Carroll. “We have one of the biggest bodies of water in the state of Oregon and it’s kind of hidden.”
At 3700-acres, Green Peter Lake is home to boating, swimming, water-skiing and especially fishing.
Anglers try their trolling luck for trout or especially kokanee, land-locked sockeye salmon that are a drawing card for longtime anglers.
Longtime local angler, Eric Cannon, uses an electronic fish finder graph, plus electric downriggers to reach the feisty fish that can swim to 100 feet deep. His bait of choice is right out of the kitchen cupboard called shoepeg corn.
“It’s the sweetness of the corn they like,” noted Cannon. “Plus, the shoepeg style has long kernels so they are easier and firmer to put on a hook.”
According to Steve Mamoyac, retired state biologist, ODFW manages Green Peter Lake for kokanee and trout.
“The state stocks about 50,000 catchable rainbow trout each year,” noted Mamoyac. “We’ve been stocking about 50,000-fingerling kokanee to augment natural production in the basin too.”
The nearby Whitcomb Creek County Park is perfectly suited to anglers seeking a multi-day stay. It sports two boat ramps near a campground that offers 39 roomy sites for tent or trailer.
While the sites do not offer water or electrical hook-ups, the large areas provide plenty of elbow room to stretch out in a pleasant, wooded setting.
“You can come up here to find that special outdoor experience that’s not as crowded as other places,” said Brian Carroll.
The roadway calls you back on western approach to the Cascades where Doug fir and western hemlock trees flank a route called the Quartzville Backcountry Byway.
The Quartzville Byway meanders past Green Peter Lake along the clear, cool waters of the Quartzville Creek; designated a National Wild and Scenic River.
It’s an amazing corridor of old growth forest, accented by rocky outcroppings and wildflowers. Some of the giant trees are 450 years old and tower more than 200 feet tall.
All together, the scenery, the fishing and the locale, so close to the Willamette Valley, provide a fabulous getaway that’s close to home. Once visited, you’ll return soon.
You can discover more behind-the-scenes stories from my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast. Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate adventure and travel stories from four decades of reporting.
You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:
"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill
"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill
“Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.
My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022.