Western Rivers Conservancy is working to restore the once extensive floodplain along the Willamette River. With seventy percent of Oregon's population residing in the Willamette Valley, the floodplain has become a nearly uniform landscape of tilled acres and urban centers. As a result, flood events have increased in frequency and severity, and the diversity of habitat and wildlife has dwindled.
Fortunately, the building blocks for a Willamette floodplain restoration program still exist. Outstanding remnants of the natural river environment, including backwater sloughs, oxbows, and gallery forests, persist in pockets along the river. For over a decade, WRC has worked to acquire these "relic areas" and adjacent properties, working to connect remnant channels and restore the natural character of the Willamette River and its floodplain.
Luckiamute River Confluence
The Luckiamute River confluence offered an extraordinary opportunity to restore a critical portion of the Willamette Rivers floodplain and enhance habitat for migratory birds, amphibians and a host of fish and wildlife. Western Rivers Conservancy purchased two properties totaling 312 acres and one mile of river frontage at this site known as Luckiamute Landing. A popular landing spot for boaters, the Luckiamute confluence includes some of the best examples of gallery forests and wetland areas remaining in the Willamette floodplain. Funding for the acquisitions came from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation now owns and manages the properties as part of the Luckiamute Landing Natural Area.
Photo credits: Josh Kling
Luckiamute Landing is part of the Oregon State Parks system located on the west bank of the Willamette River between Corvallis and Albany. It is separated into two units, north and south, by privately owned lands. The southern unit, comprising 312 acres, was purchased from private landowners by WRC in 2001 and 2002 and conveyed to Oregon State Parks shortly thereafter. The purposes of the acquisition were to restore and protect the bottomland gallery forest along the Willamette River, to restore the natural floodplain of the river, and to protect its water quality.
Oregon State Parks has developed a nice trailhead with a gravel parking lot and outhouse along Buena Vista Road, providing excellent access to the land. The main trail is an old dirt road which winds through the property and is easily traversable by foot. There are only slight elevation gains and losses.
Much of the property has been restored to natural Willamette Valley savannah interspersed with thick riparian wooded areas with hardwood trees such as Oregon ash and big leaf maple. The middle of the property features a large pond, which is actually a restored gravel pit (used in the construction of nearby Camp Adair during the early 1940s). The pond provides excellent habitat for western pond turtles and offers good fishing opportunities. There are several small water courses which wind through the property and some small ponds off the trail between the large pond and the river, all of which provide for excellent riparian wildlife habitat. There are also several geocaching sites hidden on the property.
The trailhead can be accessed from Buena Vista Road, which is part of the rural road system running north and south between the Willamette River and Highway 99W. One fun way to get there is to cross the Willamette River using the Buena Vista ferry a few miles north of Luckiamute Landing. A map showing the exact location of the trailhead and the route of the hiking trail can be found on line here.
To get more information about Luckiamute Landing, contact Oregon State Parks. All of the agency's contact information, as well as an online brochure can be found here.