Getting the most out of an OSU summer

The Willamette River flowing under the bridge connecting Oregon Route 34 and downtown Corvallis. The Willamette is a popular place for students to float when the temperatures get high during the summer.

Garrett Kitamura, News Contributor

Whether it is to take classes, work jobs or even just to enjoy the season’s weather, many students choose to spend their summers in Corvallis. We have gathered a list of some great outdoor recreation opportunities in Corvallis to help students get started on their summer adventures.

Floating the Willamette River

The Willamette River offers a great opportunity to relax and enjoy a peaceful view from the comfort of a floating tube. When traveling with a group, it can be a simple matter of choosing a launch site and having a ride ready at the end point.

Police Sergeant Toby Bottorff, supervisor of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol, explained that river floaters have a variety of options when choosing when and where to float the river. 

“Many college students enjoy putting in and floating the Willamette River from various boat ramps or parks and floating downstream,” Bottorff said via email.  “We speak with many that float from Willamette Park to Crystal Lake Sports Park or down to Michael’s Landing.  You can also take any of those put-in points and float downriver to Hyak Park or Takena Landing in Albany.”

According to Bottorff, there are no times or dates when floating is restricted, but he recommends that floaters time their departures so that they can get out of the river while it is still daylight, as floating at night increases the risk of colliding with hazards and can make it harder to signal for help in the event of an emergency. Lower evening temperatures can also increase the risk of hypothermia.

Bottorff said that people are welcome to float on any waterway in Benton County, so long as the launch site is unrestricted public land or private land that the floaters have been given permission to be on.

When floating the Willamette River, Bottorff said that people have many options, including pool toys, air mattresses and inner tubes, but he cautioned against tying floating devices together, as doing so makes the object a ‘vessel’ and, thus, subjects riders to the Life Jacket Law. 

“They would have to have a life jacket or personal floatation device for each person on board, and a whistle or sound producing device,” Bottorff said via email. “Two or more inner tubes tied together can also be a bad idea if—when floating—they come across hazards and one of the inner tubes or rope gets hung up.”

Bottorff encouraged all people floating the river to be safe and respectful to the natural beauty. Consuming alcoholic beverages while floating is legal for those 21 years of age or older, but any littering incurs a no-warning fine. In addition, smoking marijuana is illegal, as the river is considered a public space.

Bottorff also encouraged all people floating the river to be aware and avoid the very real danger of drowning.

“I mainly put that in as a serious reminder on how dangerous and devastating our rivers can be, because we don’t want to see something like that happen when it can be avoided,” Bottorff said in an email.

“On a lighter note, I would like people recreating or floating on the water to have a great time,” Bottorff said via email. “It is a very beautiful river with lots of fish, wildlife and scenery. Just remember to be prepared, stay sober enough to save yourself or others if needed, keep the river clean, watch out for broken glass, trash or sharp objects when going in or getting out of the river, especially if bare foot.”

Peavy Arboretum

For those who like to go on trail runs, nature walks or are looking for an opportunity to learn more about local plant life, Peavy Arboretum offers a no-cost opportunity to enjoy natural beauty. Maintained by Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, Peavy Arboretum is located just north of Corvallis off Oregon Route 99W.

“I think most people come to hike, but there’s also picnic tables and a picnic shelter down at Peavy Arboretum Firefighter Memorial Shelter,” said Ryan Brown, the recreation and engagement program manager for the College of Forestry’s Research Forests. 

Brown also mentioned that visitors can go to the Research Forests’ website and download a self-guided tour brochure of the various trees that grow in the arboretum.

“If you’re looking just for exploring a little bit, the two trails that are really great to access are the Intense Management Trail, which is like a loop trail—it’s a little over a mile—and Forest Discovery is another one that takes you through lot of pretty forest,” Brown said.

For first-time hikers, Brown advised bringing four critical items: food, water, a map and—in case of an emergency—a whistle. Maps are available at trailheads, but Brown said that hikers can also find more detailed waterproof maps in local bookstores and outdoor recreation stores.

“We really are excited for more students to come out and use the forest,” Brown said. “For students who are super stressed out, pretty much the best thing you can do is go for a walk in the woods.”

According to Brown, the amount of visitors to the forest increases during the summer and generally peaks around the late afternoon on weekdays and during afternoons on weekends, but the increased foot traffic does not detract from a person’s ability to fully experience Peavy’s natural beauty.

“I think one of the real nice things about Peavy Arboretum and the trails around here is just a sense of peacefulness and calm once you get out of the trailhead and away from all the people,” Brown said. “You can hear the birds chirp and see squirrels, and it’s such a different pace than campus or life in town. It’s a pretty special place.”

Peavy Arboretum is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free and  permits are not required for parking.

Mary’s Peak

Those seeking a more ambitious outdoor experience can travel to Mary’s Peak about 25 miles west of Corvallis. Located in the Siuslaw National Forest, the mountain stands at roughly 4,000 feet above sea level and is the highest peak in both Benton County and the Oregon coast range.

Lisa Romano, the public affairs state officer for the Forest Service, had one major piece of advice for any potential hikers. 

“I would recommend that people just kind of take their time to soak in the views,” Romano said.

“The views from Mary’s Peak are unlike any other view that you can really get from the Oregon Coast Range.”

According to Romano, clear days on the summit make it possible see as far west as the Oregon coast and as far north as Mt. Rainier in Washington state. 

As with any hike, Romano advised hikers to bring their own water, especially since there is no drinking water available onsite. Because of the high elevation, hikers should check the forecast so they can be prepared for potentially lower temperatures or higher winds. Romano said that hikers should be wary of bees and wasps in the meadows during the summer, though these insects are generally not found on the trails. 

Romano also said sunscreen was a necessity.

“Unlike a lot of hiking in western Oregon, when you’re up on Mary’s Peak, it’s a big, broad meadow—so you’re really exposed to sunshine,” Romano said.

When asked what her favorite trail was, Romano said the Summit Loop—officially listed as Trail 1388. 

“It’s my favorite spot just because it feels kind of tucked away from other people and it’s meadowed,” Romano said. “It always feels like kind of a secret little corner that not too many people visit.”

According to the Siuslaw National Forest website, hikers can choose from five trail options: Meadowedge Trail, East Ridge Trail, North Ridge Trail, Summit Trail and Tie Trail. Potential hikers also can check the website for road closure alerts and weather warnings.

Bald Hill

For those not yet ready to summit Mary’s Peak or for those simply seeking an adventure closer to town, Bald Hill can be a perfect option. Located on the far west side of Corvallis, Bald Hill has three main routes. According to the City of Corvallis official website, there is a path next to the Benton County Fairgrounds, a path behind the gate off of Oak Creek Road and a path that begins at an entrance off of Reservoir Road.

Jake Fitzharris, a third-year Oregon State University student majoring in political science and psychology, considers himself to be a frequent visitor of Bald Hill and recommends it to those looking to try out hiking for the first time, calling it is a relatively quick and easy hike.

Fitzharris also had suggestions for those who have never hiked before. 

“I think for any hike it’s a good idea to have water, like a water bottle, sunscreen if it’s sunny, insect repellent, and for Bald Hill at night—either night or day—you’d want to bring a map too,” Fitzharris said.

In terms of safety hazards, Fitzharris had one warning: mud. 

“There’s parts of the trail that are really wide,” Fitzharris said. “They get a lot of people trekking through those trails and the certain kind of dirt that’s used to cover the trail gets really muddy when it’s recently been raining.” 

According to Fitzharris, the trail may remain muddy for a few days after a rainstorm due to the heavy amount of shade made by the trees on the hill. He advised hikers to wear shoes that they would not mind getting muddy.

For more experienced hikers, Fitzharris recommended 5 p.m. as an ideal start time.

“I would stay up there until the sun sets. Then it’s kind of dark when you go down, but the sunset’s really cool,” Fitzharris said.

Fitzharris also recommended that hikers move around the summit in order to experience its full array of views.

“One part of the view gives you like basically one part of Corvallis and you walk to another part of the hill and you can see the rest of it,” Fitzharris said. “So you’re really getting almost a 360 degree view of Corvallis and the surrounding areas.”

Avery Park

Located just south of downtown Corvallis, Avery Park consists of 75.3 acres of scenery and open spaces for activities. The park’s amenities include five picnic shelters, horseshoe courts, a nationally-renowned rose garden, a rhododendron garden and the Avery Park Nature Center.

Avery Park is largely bordered by Mary’s River and is the home of the Corvallis Parks and Recreation department building. When asked about the surrounding river, Karen Emery, director of Corvallis Parks and Recreation, said that the river is not technically part of Avery Park, but it is a popular local swimming hole.

As for the park itself, Emery said it is most utilized during the summer months, when the weather is nicest. 

“Peak season for city park use is mid-May through September,” Emery said via email. “We kick the season off with the adult softball program that has over 1,400 players age 18 and up.”

According to Emery, the park is a popular jogging spot and is also used for a variety of activities. She said that the park is a good place for fans of the popular Pokémon Go phone app, noting that Avery Park is home to a couple of geocache targets.

“People use the wide open green space for pickup games of soccer, tag and ultimate frisbee,” Emery said in an email. “Some incorporate the forested area to play capture the flag.” 

Avery Park is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and the park’s picnic shelters can be rented for private events. Dogs are permitted, but must be on a leash at all times.