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Monday, September 9, 2013

Day Trips into Nature and Old-Timey from Salem Oregon

Half Way Between the Equator and North Pole, Silverton, Oregon
I haven't been to the equator yet, but I have been half way between the equator and
North Pole thanks to a day trip to Silverton, Oregon.
Not only does Salem have some often overlooked attractions, including historic homes, a woolen mill, and Oregon’s state capitol, it is also a good home base for day trips to Silverton for waterfalls and gardens and Cottage Grove for covered bridges. 

Cottage Grove Covered Bridges

 
I am a sucker for covered bridges.  And yet, before our trip to Oregon, I had never seen one in real life.  I am a huge fan of old movies, and I have seen many covered bridges in black and white movies.  The one that most often springs to mind is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House with Cary Grant, when they are trying to find their new house and keep making a wrong turn and returning to the same covered bridge over and over and over.  I think I identify with that part because I seem to always get us lost during our travels at least once.  In fact, later during our time in Oregon, in an effort to get us around a blocked section of road while driving the Historic Columbia River Highway, we actually did manage to hit the same intersection three times due to my stellar navigation.
 
Thanks to a suggestion from my friend’s mother, I finally had my chance to see not just one, but multiple covered bridges.  Cottage Grove is a little over an hour south of Salem and has seven covered bridges all along a scenic loop drive.  In fact, Oregon has more covered bridges than anywhere else on the west coast.  Eugene Cascades & Coast provides a great map of the Cottage Grove covered bridge tour loop.  The bridges were built at different times, the first being built in 1920 and the most recent being built in 1949 (excluding the Centennial Bridge, which was built in 1997 at the time of Cottage Grove’s Centennial and was constructed from two bridges that had been torn down).  The Mosby Creek Bridge is still open to traffic.
 
Mosby Creek Bridge, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Mosby Creek Bridge, the oldest surviving covered bridge in Lane County and
the only one in the area still open to traffic.
 
Currin Bridge, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Currin Bridge
Centennial Bridge, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Centennial Bridge

Silver Falls State Park

 
Silverton is a short drive (less than half an hour) northeast of Salem.  The drive alone is lovely, passing through beautiful undulating green hills and Christmas tree farms.  Our first stop was Silver Falls State Park.  The park has a network of trails that pass ten waterfalls.  If you are traveling with dogs, note that unfortunately only some of the trails allow dogs and you will miss out on viewing many of the waterfalls.  The park provides maps at the fee station with the dog friendly trails highlighted.  Even though we were only able to see a small portion of the waterfalls, and even though it started raining, the hike was very pretty, with large trees covering the trail, which not only added to the scenery but also provided some protection from the rain.
 
Silver Falls State Park, Silverton, Oregon
Silver Falls State Park

Oregon Garden

 
We also visited the Oregon Garden, which is also dog friendly.  Henry and Charlie even got to ride the half-hour informational tram tour around the garden!  In true Oregon style, the Oregon Garden is not just there to be pretty and showcase Oregon’s native flora.  It also serves an important planet-friendly purpose.  Treated water from the Silverton wastewater treatment plant passes through a series of ponds which contain wetland plants that absorb the excess nutrients from the treated water.  The water then passes through the garden’s irrigation system before passing to the lower wetlands, which reduces the flow of treated wastewater into Silver Creek.  Just outside of the Oregon Garden is the Frank Lloyd Wright Gordon House, designed in 1957 for average income families, which can be toured.  There is also a hotel, the Oregon Garden Resort, within the grounds of the Oregon Garden.
 
Oregon Garden Wetlands, Silverton, Oregon
Oregon Garden Wetlands
 
Dog Friendly Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon
Even Henry and Charlie are invited to tour the Oregon Garden!
If you want to visit a city with a small town feel, but with a number of interesting and varied sites within driving distance, give Salem a try.  You will find a city of friendly people who are surprised but happy that you dedicated part of your vacation to their infrequently visited city.

I used Frommer's Oregon to plan our trip to Oregon.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
Salem: Oregon’s Often Overlooked Middle Child
 

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Katherine Belarmino is the author of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. She works full-time in a non-travel related job, but she and her husband Romeo take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.