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Willamette Mission Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Bluffs along the Willamette (bobcat)
Largest black cottonwood, Willamette Mission State Park (bobcat)
Invasive water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala), Mission Lake (bobcat)
Osprey nest, Willamette Mission State Park (bobcat)
Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) and wheatfield, Willamette Mission State Park (bobcat)
Goose Lake in winter, Willamette Mission State Park (bobcat)
Short loop in red; other loops in orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Filbert Grove TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Willamette Mission Site
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.6 miles (or 6.9 miles via longer loop)
  • Elevation gain: 20 feet
  • High Point: 110 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes



The site of Jason Lee's 1834 Methodist mission to the Kalapuya natives, Willamette Mission State Park encompasses Beaver Island (no longer an island), Mission Lake and fields and orchards on the south bank of the Willamette River. Lee was the first English-speaking settler in the Willamette Valley and a historical marker pays homage to his mission; the buildings were destroyed by the great flood of 1861 several years after Lee departed. The park is also the site of the Wheatland ferry crossing, the state's oldest, the nation's largest black cottonwood, picnic areas and a variety of trails. The short loop of 2.6 miles takes you to the historical site, the cottonwood, and the ferry landing. A longer loop of 6.9 miles takes in fields and riparian woodland at the outer fringes of the park area. The loops can also be started at the Mission Lake Trailhead, across Mission Lake from the champion cottonwood.

From the day-use trailhead, take the paved trail to the right of the restrooms through lichen-draped filberts to reach the river. Fox squirrels scurry busily about. See the high, light-colored bluffs on the opposite bank of the Willamette. Cottonwoods, ash, and red osier dogwood crowd the bank. In the undergrowth, there is also Armenian blackberry, poison oak, reed canary-grass and trailing blackberry. You can see the Wheatland ferry plying its crossing up ahead. Short trails lead down to the slippery banks of the river. Filberts and young Douglas-firs hem one in on the right. Come to a junction with another paved bike trail on the right and a picnic table. Pass the trail on the right leading to the Mission Site Viewing Area. Continue to the Wheatland Ferry Landing to observe the operation. This ferry dates to 1844. You can continue along the path on the river bank past the ferry landing to the park's boat ramp. Beyond here, a trail leads along the shore about a quarter of a mile. Return to the paved trail leading west from the ferry landing.

Walk about 200 yards to make a left on the grassy trail to the Willamette Mission Site. Come to a wide grassy area. On the left is a viewing platform overlooking Mission Lake and signs about the mission itself. There is also information about the “Mission rose,” whose descendants have survived here since Jason Lee’s time. Lee came here to instruct the Kalapuya natives. According to the plaque, he fenced 30 acres. There were already some French Canadians homesteading in the area with their Indian wives. The establishment of Lee's Methodist mission was a factor in attracting more American settlers to Oregon as the missionaries sent reports back East, and thus the U.S.’s claim over the territory was strengthened. An archeological excavation in 1980 confirmed that this was the site of the buildings, which were destroyed in the flood of 1861. There are the metal frames of “ghost buildings” across Mission Lake.

After leaving the mission viewpoint, keep walking under Oregon ash and some large cottonwoods. Then skirt an extensive filbert grove. There are some access points to Mission Lake. Pass big picnic areas and a walnut grove on the right. An observation pier on the left juts into the lake. Pass a large double-trunked alder, and then reach a sign at a clear view across the lake of the nation’s largest black cottonwood: 26’ 8” in circumference, 158’ high, and about 270 years old. Reach the paved boat ramp road, which leads from the Mission Lake Trailhead. To complete the short loop walk out from this parking area to the main park road and then go right and back to the Filbert Grove Day-use Area.

For the longer loop, walk across a grassy area to the main entrance road, where you turn left. Walk up the road, crossing a slough which can flood the road sometimes in the winter, and take a trail to the right to get close to the big cottonwood. The tree, especially its girth, is more impressive close up. (Mission Lake and the slough are the pre-1861 flood main channel of the Willamette River). Walk up behind the tree to some picnic tables in a planting of willow. The trail behind the cottonwood is part of the Willamette Vision Educational Trail, a 2.5 mile loop.

Head back to main road on chip trail, part of a 1999 habitat restoration project. The trail continues on the other side, passing a wildflower meadow and skirting a farm field that is leased out. Pass a Douglas-fir plantation. The trail curves left at a planting of western hemlock and Pacific ponderosa pine. Get good views of Mount Hood now. A ditch to the right is the high water channel to Goose Lake. Keep straight at a junction as the trail approaches within 15 yards of the main road. Then there are plantings of native fescues and sedge. Walk up the access road for the fishing trail to Goose Lake, which leads off to the right. There are more test plots to the left with bluebird nesting boxes on short poles, and also canary grass and teazel rustling in the wind. The trail crosses the road at a sign saying “Habitat Restoration Project 2002.” Go right and at a junction keep left (right is to parking, where there are brochures for the park and the educational trail). A sign describes the restoration project designed to place filters between agricultural fields and the river, provide shade and habitat. The trail goes along the edge of a large field. Look for Canada geese feeding in its center. Reed canary-grass, ash, and yellow-tipped willow compose the thicket to the right. Pass a bench overlooking the field. See the wildlife blind at the parking area up through the trees. At a sunflower planting, the trail bends left. A private marionberry field is on the right. Head towards Mission Lake and make a left again. Here there are plantings of Pacific ponderosa with hemlock. Along Mission Lake, there are also small plantings of red-cedar, Douglas-fir and pine. Find yourself back at the biggest cottonwood and keep going to the road. Go right and walk up the road crossing the slough again.

Come to a grassy area on the left opposite the boat ramp access road and walk across it to the paved bike trail. Go left on this to make the last loop. Enter an ash woodland. See stinging nettles trailside. More cottonwoods and red osier dogwood, Armenian blackberry and trailing blackberry make up the thickets. At a junction, make a sharp left for a longer loop by the high water channel. In these woods, there are splendid examples of tall Oregon grape. Before the trail hits an open area, pass by a stand of grand fir. Get a clear view of the almost waterless channel to the left. Then a horse trail crosses the bike trail. See Window Slough ahead. You can take the horse trail to reach it and see its confluence with the Willamette. The bike trail curves to the right to parallel the river. Pass by an open field of many bluebird nesting boxes and the dried out heads of teazel. Pass the junction with the bike tie trail on the right. Keep straight at a junction with a horse trail. Reenter ash and cottonwood woods. Hawthorn and hazel grow in the undergrowth. See the high bluffs of the river to the left. You can access a river bar and beach here. Come to the filbert grove of the day use area. Pass the first junction and take the second right back to the car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee
  • Dogs on leash
  • Campground, bicycle trails, horse trails, picnic areas


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Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's History by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Urban Hikes Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Salem and Eugene by Adam Sawyer
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • The Willamette River Field Guide by Travis Williams
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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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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