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Cox Creek to Talking Waters Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pond, Talking Water Gardens (bobcat)
Sessile trillium (Trillium albidum), Cox Creek Trail (bobcat)
Cox Creek, Cox Creek Trail (bobcat)
Common camas (Camassia quamash), Simpson Park, Albany (bobcat)
The Cox Creek Trail connects Waverly Lake with Talking Water Gardens (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Waverly Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Talking Water Gardens
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet
  • High Point: 215 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



Right off the freeway, you can stop at Waverly Lake in Albany and begin a walk that takes you down Cox Creek to the the Talking Water Gardens, Albany’s award-winning wastewater treatment ponds, which support a lively avian population. The entrance to the Gardens is also the Simpson Park Trailhead, and a trail leads from here to the Willamette River. The hike described below takes you from Waverly Lake to the Gardens. If you wish to continue along the Willamette River, see the Albany Riverfront Hike.

Cox Creek is named for Anderson Cox, who settled here in 1848 and owned a small sawmill. Cox was an elected delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention and was also responsible for the naming of Linn County after Senator Lewis F. Linn of Missouri, an early supporter of statehood for Oregon.

From the oak-shaded parking area, take the paved trail clockwise around Waverly Lake, originally a gravel pit and now lined with white alder and birch trees. Even though this is next to a busy highway, the lake supports a good waterfowl population, including mallards, cormorants, coots, and gulls. Pass the Pacific Avenue road bridge and bend right. The path loops to run alongside Salem Avenue. Cross a footbridge where Cox Creek exits Waverly Lake and use the crosswalk to cross Salem Avenue. Go right after crossing the street and then turn left on the paved Cox Creek Trail.

This narrow woodland corridor above Cox Creek showcases blooming sessile trilliums and camas lilies in early spring. Pass under the railroad tracks and walk along the fence that encloses Talking Water Gardens. Look for herons, egrets, and waterfowl in the garden ponds. To your left is the former Nebergall Meat Company complex, now an ATI specialty metal plant. The dam built across Cox Creek here in 1932 was removed in 2013. New plantings of elderberry, Oregon grape, and red flowering currant line the trail. Reach the Simpson Park Trailhead, where you can inspect the oak-shaded meadow above First Lake, an oxbow lake that lies in a former channel of the Wilamette River. In spring, this is a purple-hued meadow of blooming camas.

Then go through the entrance gate to begin your circuit of the Talking Water Gardens, Albany’s award-winning wastewater treatment ponds which were funded by the American Recovery and Investment Act, ATI, and the Cities of Albany and Millersburg. Here a former Simpson Lumber Company mill site has been converted into a series of ponds, or cells, that are alive with the springtime cacophony of geese, coots, mallards, buffleheads, grebes, and herons. It’s an arundinaceous landscape (cattails dominate) with artificial waterfalls and channels that cool, aerate, filter, and remove nitrogen and phosphorus. Some foundations from the lumber mill, which was originally built in 1941 by the M & M Wood Working Company, have been integrated into the design.

The area is laced with trails and maintenance roads, so head around the area clockwise and wander at will. At the north end of Talking Waters, there’s an oak savanna near the Portland & Western railroad yard. You’ll be serenaded by the cascading calls of red-winged blackbirds and the soothing splashing of the various channels and falls. The nine cells themselves often carry a surface covering of duckweed. Tasteful footbridges enhance the overall design.

Return to the Cox Creek Trail and cross Salem Avenue on the crosswalk. Keep to the left to finish the loop around Waverly Lake. Pass the Memorial Cemetery (The historic Hebrew Cemetery is across Salem Avenue to the east of Cox Creek), and then the paddle boat rental kiosk. Veer left then right to cross a footbridge above clusters of yellow irises. Head back to your vehicle from here.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms (closed in winter), picnic tables, paddle boats in summer
  • Open 6:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger

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Page Contributors

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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.