Oregon City residents have a new natural sanctuary in town, and with a serene forest and several miles of hiking trail, it might even be enough to draw visitors from across the Portland metropolitan area.
Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park is one of two new outdoor recreation areas managed by Metro, both of which opened late last year after more than two decades of funding and development.
And while the other new nature park, Chehalem Ridge, offers expansive views of the Willamette Valley wine country and Cascade Mountain peaks, Newell Creek is a much more sedate experience, with trails taking visitors through a small wooded setting in the heart of Oregon City .
The 236-acre park includes 4.25 miles of trails, including nearly two miles open to mountain bikers only and a hiker-only loop that runs just over a mile. Hikers can see the entire park on an easy 3.65-mile round-trip hike, while mountain bikers can complete a roughly 3-mile loop.
And while there are no vistas or major natural attractions to speak of, Newell Creek Canyon, with a lush forest of bigleaf maples and western redcedar trees, offers a peaceful place to spend time outdoors. Tumble Creek (a tributary of Newell Creek) runs through the park and at one point tumbles down a bridge-side dam, creating the tiny Tumble Falls.
Metro bought the site in 1995 and spent the following decades clearing weeds and clearing human debris. The agency then planted native plants like Oregon grapes, ocean spray, and Douglas fir trees to revitalize the ecosystem.
Funding for the new park came courtesy of public bonds approved by voters in 1999, 2006 and 2019, which helped fund planning, construction and ongoing operations at Metro parks across the region, he said the Agency.
Now, a quarter of a century after work began, the public gets its first glimpse of Newell Creek Canyon as the late spring rains give way to the summer sun.
In early July, the park was adorned with fresh greenery, with remnants of wildflower blooms still everywhere. New walking trails were well maintained while visitors walked and biked through the forest and rested at picnic tables on the lawn adjacent to the trailhead parking lot.
Nestled between residential neighborhoods, shopping malls and a four-lane freeway, the park is a safe haven for urban beavers, red foxes and black-tailed deer, according to Metro, as well as other elusive creatures that call the forest home.
This location also makes it a convenient getaway for local residents who can walk, bus, or drive to the trailhead just south of downtown Oregon City on Molalla Avenue. For those in other parts of the metro area, it’s a great new outdoor destination to discover – another of many local outdoor areas to explore.
Open daily from sunrise to sunset; 485 Warner Milne Road, Oregon City; oregonmetro.gov.
– Jamie Hale; [email protected]; 503-294-4077; @HaleJamesB