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Lacamas Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Potholes at very low water (Steve Hart)
Small cascades just above Lower Falls during late summer low water (Steve Hart)
The same place in winter at high water (Jeff Statt)
Round Lake Dam (Steve Hart)

Contents

Hike Description

Lacamas Creek Park is technically a city park, right in the middle of town. On the other hand, it just doesn't feel that way.

This hike starts at the far south end of the park at the Lacamas Creek Trailhead. There used to be a house at the trailhead, but apparently the city has purchased the property and leveled the house. The trail starts northward, following a gated road. The first 0.7 miles works it's way gently up and down, usually just barely within view of the Lacamas Creek. Most of the trees here are maples and alders and the fall colors are pretty spectacular in November.

At 0.7 miles, you'll come to the McEnry Bridge, a steel structure over Lacamas Creek. The water level varies dramatically here with the seasons. In the summer, there's a lot of bare rock visible and it's easy to walk down to the creek and let your feet hang in. There's a rough path down a rock chute on the east side of the creek to a view of Lower Falls. In the wintertime, on the other hand, water fills the entire valley and it would be unsafe to go out on the rocks. At this point, you're leaving the city-owned Lacamas Creek Park and entering the county-owned Lacamas Park, although the boundary isn't marked by signs.

At the far (east) side of the bridge, turn left and follow the trail up the east side of the creek. There are several side paths in this section leading down to Lacamas Creek. After about 1/4 mile, you'll pass a large pool and then the Woodburn Creek Bridge. There's another waterfall on Woodburn Creek, but it's not accessible from here. Past Woodburn Creek, there's a bit of flat open forest, then the trail climbs rather steeply to a rocky summit.

This rocky area looks a lot more like the eastern part of the Columbia River Gorge, than it does Camas. Depending on what time you visit, you'll see bare basalt rocks sticking through meadows of dry grass or camas blooms. There's a healthy stand of Oregon Oak here, just like you'd see farther east and like those eastern areas there's a lot of poison oak, as well. There's an open viewpoint here with a beautiful look at another waterfall called The Potholes. The trail drops down a bit off this micro-ecosystem and heads through a bit of forest to a scenic fence at the edge of a steep slope. There's a very steep use path down to The Potholes, frequented by swimming teens in the summer. If there are no children to consider, The Potholes is a worthwhile side destination. Winter floods circulated hard stones in pools here, creating the namesake "Pot Holes". Some of the holes are ten feet deep and the entire area is eroded into curving, smooth shapes that seem other-worldly.

Back up the hill on the main trail head north about another 1/10 of a mile and you'll come to a trail junction on the shore of Round Lake. This is the Round Lake Trail and you're going to walk all the way around. Turn right and head up a two switchbacks to a junction with the Lily Trail. You can see the lily meadows from the junction, but if you're here in April, it's well worth the side trip. You've reached the highest point of the hike here and the Round Lake Trail begins a steep descent. There's a second small climb and then the trail drops to lake level at a small abandoned dock. Continue north to bridge over a wet area filled with orange flowered Spotted Jewelweed, a pretty non-native flower that is becoming invasive in our area.

Soon after this, the trail comes to 35th Avenue. Turn left and go down the sidewalk about 1/4 mile to a stop sign at Everett Street. Turn left and cross the bridge over the small channel that connects Lacamas Lake with Round Lake. At the south end of this small bridge, leave the road for a paved path into the improved section of Lacamas Park. There are restrooms here, as well as a playground and a lot of gorgeous lawn. Head south on the wide, graveled trail. Soon you'll see Mill Pond on the right, which is the water source for the Georgia Pacific paper mill in downtown Camas. Next, you'll cross a walkway on an odd apparatus that looks like a huge wheel covered with mesh. This gadget filters the water as it flows from Round Lake to Mill Pond, keeping fish, logs and trash out of Mill Pond and the mill. Just across this channel, there's another trail that leads to the Mill Pond Dam, a dirt bicycling area and another path to The Potholes.

Our hike continues to the left, crossing the Round Lake Dam. Round Lake is a natural lake, but it was enlarged when the original dam was constructed about 1883. The trail passes right across the top of the current dam. There's an interesting set of gears there used by employees for opening or closing the spillway. There is a small pothole formation visible just below the dam.

Beyond the dam is a series of maintained trails and use paths. To get back to The Potholes, turn right on any of these paths, as they all come together anyway. From The Potholes return to your car the way you came.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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