The perfect path for a rainy-day walk with kids – Willamalane Middle Fork Path from Dorris Ranch

When it’s a maybe-it’ll-rain kind of day, but also a we-gotta-get-the-kids-out kind of day, we like to hit up Willamalane’s new Middle Fork Path through Springfield.  It’s a 4-mile paved path along the middle fork of the Willamette River.  We like the paved path because it’s easy for the stroller but the scenery is amazing.

There are 3 main trailheads along the Middle Fork Path.  One at Clearwater Park, one in the middle near Agnes Stewart Middle School, and one at Dorris Ranch.  This day, we chose Dorris Ranch because we hadn’t walked that part of the path yet.

The Middle Fork Path has it’s own parking area at Dorris Ranch, and we parked right next to the restrooms.  Directly behind the restrooms is the Living History Village with a replica of a homestead so we explored this first.

Living History Village

Willamalane Path - Living History Village off the Middle Fork trailhead at Dorris Ranch

We didn’t know this even existed, so we were delighted to discover this loop at the beginning of the trail.

Masterson Pioneer Cabin at Willamalane's Dorris Ranch in Springfield, Oregon - Living History Village

While our kids ran off to explore, I read the sign. We are a family of 8, and I can’t imagine living in a cabin this small. According to the sign, they had as many as 10 living there.

Willamalane Path - Living History Village pioneer cabin in Springfield, Oregon, at Dorris Ranch

No other signs were present, so I’m not sure what the other buildings represent. This is the front of the cabin with the only window and door. My older kids marveled at the small touches, like heart-shaped hinges to decorate the door.

(Photo Credit OOF Daughter)

Our 12-year-old was particularly fascinated by the way the gaps between logs were filled with straw and mud. (Photo credit OOF Daughter)

The village is arranged around a loop, so we traveled the rest of the loop, checking out each building.

Native American building at Living History Village at Dorris Ranch

A peek inside through a crack between boards. No explanation was given for this building.

(Photo Credit OOF Daughter)

(Photo Credit OOF Daughter)

The Path – The First Half-Mile

After fully exploring the pioneer village, we headed down the paved path toward the Willamette River.  Almost immediately, we left the city behind and transcended into a world of nature, beauty, and forest.  The first 0.25 mile was through a reclaimed pasture.  There were signs describing the invasive vegetation removal, and we could see their efforts along the path to remove (most likely) blackberry and other invasive plants.

Willamalane Path through Oak Savannah in Dorris Ranch, Springfield, Oregon

Oak savannah used to be common across the Willamette Valley. Groups like Willamalane are working to preserve and restore remaining pockets of savannah, such as this one.

Removing invasive plants like blackberry from Oak savannah

Evidence of invasive plant removal.

Soon we were under the trees, occasionally catching glimpses of the hazelnut orchards in Dorris Ranch, which borders the path.

Trees along Middle Fork Path

As former foresters, we are always looking up, checking out the tree species and canopy. Our kids have learned to look up, too, and we often see birds, interesting fungi, and insect damage (bad for the tree, fascinating for the kids).

Hazelnut filbert trees in Dorris Ranch.

Hazelnut trees in Dorris Ranch, a historic hazelnut orchard started in 1892.

We spotted Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and more along the path.

There are benches along the path for resting, or taking in the scenery. A bench is located near each mile marker.

The Path – the next Half-Mile

Shortly after the 0.5 mile marker, the river peeked through the trees.  We were all eager to see the river, so despite several of our little ones getting tired, we pressed on.

One note about walking/hiking with little ones…preparation makes it fun.  We have 4 children who are age 4 and under, so we took our double stroller and two packs so everyone could ride when they were ready.  As kids got tired, the went into the stroller or into a pack.  Our 3 and 4-year-olds are both pretty good about walking and can go about a mile.  But our 2-year-old doesn’t “get” hiking and sees no reason to walk very far!  And then we have a 2-month-old who thinks hikes are the best nap ever.

Insect damage on a (presumably) dead tree. I’m assuming this tree won’t have leaves this summer, but I could be wrong.

The path along the river is near private property, so a fence on one side allows views of the river while a brick wall borders the other side of the path.

Willamalane Path - interesting tree

Dead tree with woodpecker holes near the 1-mile marker. We turned around near this tree and headed back with tired kids.

Two paths diverged in a wood…we took the one most traveled. The dirt path leads into Dorris Ranch, the paved path leads back to our van in the parking lot. Our kids were done, everyone was hungry, and so we booked it back to the van without stopping.

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OregonOutdoorMama

I’m a middle-aged mom of 3-6 and sometimes more, depending on day. I’m out of shape and usually exhausted. Our favorite summertime activity (and sometimes on dry winter days) is getting outdoors and finding adventure.

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