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Minto-Brown Island Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Walking Path A along the Willamette River, Minto-Brown Island (bobcat)
Salmonberry flower (Rubus spectabilis), Minto-Brown Island (bobcat)
Wrong turn, Minto-Brown Island (bobcat)
Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus), Minto-Brown Island (bobcat)
Collapsed fishing platform, Minto-Brown Island (bobcat)
Described loop shown in green (bobcat) Courtesy: Salem Parks & Recreation



Isaac “Whiskey” Brown and John Minto were settlers who homesteaded here, and the "islands," now connected to the mainland, have been drained, farmed and used for landfill and gravel quarries. After settlement, the Great Willamette Flood of 1861 altered the river's course and forced the natural merger of Minto and Brown Islands. They are now given over to city and county parks and a wildlife refuge to protect wintering dusky Canada geese. Vegetable crops, corn, and wheat are still grown here. The city park/refuge was established in 1970, on 899 acres, which are bordered to the northwest by the 60-acre county park at Eola Bend. The latter was added after the 1996 winter floods inundated a landfill site; an extensive reforestation project has taken place here. There are many options for hikers, dog walkers, joggers, and bike riders, with both bark chip and paved trails and a generous off-leash area. This is a big playground for residents of Oregon's capital, so expect crowds on nice weekends. The route described leaves from Parking Lot 1, near the entrance to the park, but you can also begin in the middle of things at Parking Lot 3, which offers access to dry trails at times of high water. There are plans to connect Minto-Brown's trail system with a half-mile trail and bridge leading to downtown Salem's Riverfront Park (see the Salem Riverfront Hike). Check the link under Maps for the official map of the current trail system.

At Parking Lot 1, take the paved path by the port-a-potties, passing through a thicket of Armenian blackberry, wild rose, crab apple, and Oregon ash. Cross over a wooden bridge to a road and make a sharp right. This paved path (Path C on the map) heads down to a field with an ash-lined slough on the right. Reed canary-grass provides a dense verge. At a junction, take a spur to the right through a swale of ash, cottonwoods, willow and red osier dogwood. This leads to a viewing platform, cut off by water in winter and spring, over the Willamette Slough. Return to the main trail and bear right at the garbage can. The path continues around the edge of a field, passing a stand of young cottonwoods and then, at a junction, you bear right on Path A. Now you have Douglas-firs on the right and a slough lined by cottonwoods on the left. The trail reaches a junction: keep left here - going right will take you the 0.8 miles to the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge, which connects Minto Island with Salem's Riverfront Park (See the Salem Riverfront Hike); dedication of the the new bridge is scheduled for August 2017. Continuing on Path A, pass through a blackberry thicket. Then pass a corn field on the left with a swale on the right. A couple of madrones stand out among the hazels. At a junction, go right down through an ash and willow swale, and then the trail bends left along the cottonwood-lined Willamette. Soon the view opens up as you stroll along the river bank. Unfortunately, the hum of traffic from Highway 22 carries across the water. You will pass, on the left, the Minto-Brown Lot 3 Trailhead, another place to begin walking the trails here. The paved trail heads in after 3/4 mile at a sign about the floodplain, but at this junction continue straight on an earth/wood chip path. This is the beginning of the Orange Loop, and continues along the river into Eola Bend County Park, but the view is often blocked by blackberries and tansies. At one point a detour heads in where the river bank has been eroded away. Pass a cottonwood plantation on the left and walk under power lines and past some large and venerable ivy-clad cottonwoods.

Take a gravel road straight to some information boards and the Eola Bend Picnic Area. The kiosk gives information about the conversion of the area to a park, which borders a former solid waste landfill and a current demolition landfill. Forty-five thousand trees trees of 40 species were planted in April 2000 in a reforestation project of former fields. Return to the gravel track and head towards the river, passing plantings of cedar, big-leaf maples, ponderosa pine and cottonwood. Somewhere beyond the thickets is the Willamette River, but the dense understory of blackberry cannot be penetrated. There’s a big planting of yellow-twigged Pacific willow. Pass under power lines and walk long the river. At a junction, keep straight. Pass an osprey nest platform and a planting of ponderosas and grand fir. You will pass a picnic table at a secluded point overlooking the river. The track bends at a cottonwood grove to complete the loop. Pass the junction with the cross-park trail. The landfill fence is up on your right. Walk by a big pylon and, at a junction, go straight and then right along the landfill fence, reentering Minto-Brown Island Park.

Continue right at the next junction. This is a farmer’s track and is very muddy when wet. Continue along the blackberry-lined landfill boundary to the next junction, where you meet the Blue Loop. Go straight here, with an ash/cottonwood swale on the left. The trail heads left at a locked landfill gate and you walk for a short time on a paved road. Leave the paved road at a path going into the woods on the left and then make a right. Now you’re heading along a wood chip trail by a slough, really an old gravel pit. Ash and cottonwood shade this tranquil part of the park. Lots of dusky Canada geese, teal and mallards are abundant here in the winter/spring months. Hop across a creek, and pass a collapsed fishing platform on the end of a peninsula which juts into the slough. At the next junction, keep right and then come to a paved trail, where you turn right (Path I).

Cross a wooden pedestrian bridge over a slough and go right in an ash, alder, and cottonwood woodland to begin the Green Loop. The trail rises slightly to Douglas-fir plantings. On the left is a huge, brushy open space which the trail circles. Keep straight at the junction which completes the loop and, at the next junction, after passing a rusting old car, also keep straight - the trail to the right crosses a bridge and leads to Homestead Road. Pass by a thicket of cherry and blackberry. At the next junction, take the chip trail heading left. Teazel and Queen Anne’s lace verge the trail. The trail bends left and the railroad can seen seen up to the right through the trees. Look for red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. The open area is brushy with young white oaks, Armenian and evergreen blackberry, teazel, wild rose, and Scots broom. Pass a driving range of the Salem Golf Club on the right and then come to the paved trail again, where you go right on Path H. Pass the bridge junction and continue straight. Then go right at the next paved junction (Path E). Skirt ash, maple, madrone, and cottonwood woods and see the big off-leash field away to the left. Keep to the paved trail and pass a water lily covered slough to the right. Here there are plantings of red osier dogwood and willow among the reed canary-grass, teazel, and western spiraea. Come to the duck pond, with its coots and domestic geese, the latter not budging and hissing at your dog as they await handouts. The path comes to the entry road. Make a right and cross a bridge and then go left into Parking Lot 1.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fees
  • Dogs on leash except in designated off-leash area
  • Picnic areas, restrooms, playground, information kiosks
  • Note that some paths (notably A, C, E, and the Blue Loop) can be inundated at times of high water
  • Open 8:00 a.m. to sunset


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Portland, Oregon by Lizann Dungeon
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Willamette River Field Guide by Travis Williams
  • Off-Street Paved Bike Paths in Oregon by Rick Bronson
  • Mountain Biking Oregon: Northwest and Central Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

More Links

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.

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