Eugene's Amazon

A greenway teems with wildlife and recreation

Bonnie Henderson

Bald eagles, belted kingfishers, dragonflies, and camas flowers might keep you company on a walk through the wetlands west of Eugene. A recently expanded trail is luring cyclists, walkers, and runners out to Amazon Creek, which, for most of the last century, was wild in name only. In times past, soon after the creek tumbled out of the city's south hills it was captured and channeled for the passage through town. Reaching west Eugene, the water was further tamed by farmers' levees, turning a wet prairie into arable land. Now the West Eugene Wetlands are being transformed back into a haven for wildlife and people looking for a close-to-town place to play.

The paved, 7.5-mile (one-way) Fern Ridge Path starts near the county fairgrounds at 15th Avenue and Jefferson Street. It follows Amazon Creek to Royal Avenue, then jogs south a half-mile along Greenhill Road to end at the new Meadowlark Prairie Overlook, a good destination or starting point with its shaded picnic tables and restrooms. Checkermallow Access, on Royal a half-mile east of Greenhill, is another good launch point. A shorter network of paved paths and soft, bark-chip hiking trails follow the creek's upper end in south Eugene, and they're about to get extended too. The 1-mile Headwaters Trail scheduled for construction should connect with the city's Ridgeline Trail by fall.

INFO: Call the Bureau of Land Management in Eugene for wetlands trail maps (free; 541/683-6600).