Willamette National Forest


East of Eugene, the Willamette National Forest stretches for 110 miles (177 km) along the western slopes of the Cascades. The Forest extends from the Mt. Jefferson area east of Salem to the Calapooya Mountains northeast of Roseburg. The Willamette National Forest is 1.6 million acres (647,520 hectares) or about the size of the state of New Jersey. Access to the Forest is provided by four major highways, with the nearest entry point just 20 miles (32.18 km) from Eugene off Highway 58.

The Willamette is characterized as a glaciated landscape that includes mountain peaks and volcanoes, rock pinnacles, lava fields, craters, and cinder cones. The Collier Glaciers, Oregon's largest glacier, is found in the forest.

Each year thousands of visitors come to the Willamette National Forest to camp, hike, boat, swim, hunt, fish, ski, and snowmobile.

There are over 80 campgrounds and picnic sites on the Forest. Nearly all campgrounds have water and vault or flush toilets. Depending upon the facilities offered, some campgrounds have a user fee. Most sites are on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are 1,400 miles (2,253 km) of trails on the Willamette National Forest. Several of these trails are at lower elevations and easy to access for year-round hiking pleasure. Three very scenic low-elevation trails—the McKenzie River, Fall Creek, and South Breitenbush Gorge Trails—have been designated as National Recreation Trails. The Fall Creek and McKenzie River Trails are within 50 miles (80 km) of Eugene (with bus service available from Eugene to McKenzie Bridge). The South Breitenbush Gorge Trail is located 60 miles (97 km) east of Salem.

The Willamette has eight Wilderness areas totaling 380,805 acres (154,112 hectares). These areas, the majority of which encompass seven major mountain peaks in the Cascades, are popular with hikers, backpackers, and mountain climbers. Wilderness areas in the Willamette are Mt. Jefferson, Menagerie, Middle Santiam, Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Waldo Lake, Bull of the Woods, and the Diamond Peak.

Sparkling Lakes and rivers provide numerous opportunities to test your angling skills. Over 350 lakes are contained in the Forest. Most of these are high country lakes above 4,000 feet. Access to most of these lakes is via hiking trails. Those willing to hike into these lakes are rewarded with solitude, beauty, and excellent fishing.

Heavily fished lakes in the Willamette are stocked annually. More isolated ones are planted every two to three years. Fish found in the Willamette's lakes and rivers include rainbow, cutthroat, brook and steelhead trout. Some recommended lakes and streams to try include Daly lake, Parish Lake, Riggs Lake, and Gordon Lakes. Rivers and streams recommended for fishing are South Santiam, Quartzville, Calapoonia, North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River, Salmon Creek, Salt Creek, and the Middle Fork of the Santiam.

Winter sports are also popular. There are two developed ski areas on the Willamette National Forest, Hoodoo and Willamette Pass, and many Forest roads and trails lend themselves to cross-country skiing. Snowmobiling is popular on Waldo Lake Road and in the Big Lake area near Santiam Pass.

The Willamette National Forest is also home to over 300 species of animals. Some of the more common animals include mule and blacktailed deer, Roosevelt elk, black bear, cougar, grouse, and waterfowl. Many kinds of trout are found in the Forest's lakes and streams including brook, rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and bull trout. The Forest is open to hunting and fishing in regular seasons. Regulations and licensing are established by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rainfall on the Willamette National Forest varies from 40 to more than 150 inches (102 to 381 cm) a year, much of it as snow, which blankets the higher Cascades. The rain and melting snow furnish water for over one-half million Willamette Valley residents. Six major dam facilities on the Forest provide flood control, irrigation, and hydro-electric power to communities in the Willamette Valley.

The Willamette National Forest is the top timber producer among the 156 National Forests in the United States. Twenty-five percent of the revenue generated by timber harvest is returned to six Oregon Counties for support of public schools and roads.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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