Even with the option of buying e-books and everything else in digital or downloadable form, holding an e-reader or looking at the screen of your iPhone doesn’t give you the same feeling as holding a tangible object. We’re talking print books. Thumbing to a dog-eared page. Trying to navigate your way along a trail as you hold the trail map in front of you. Looking at a photo to see if that is indeed the new plant species you’ve been searching for. It’s all better when you’re holding that actual object in your hands.
To get down and dirty with the local trails, rivers, and watersheds, you’d be wise to pick up a copy of Wild in the Willamette: Exploring the Mid-Valley’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas. Published by Oregon State University Press and edited by Lorraine Anderson and Abby Phillips Metzger, with maps by Monica Drost, Wild in the Willamette has been hot news for Mid-Valley recreation enthusiasts since the book was released last fall.
An official release from OSU Press notes that Willamette Valley is honored for its rich opportunities for outdoor recreation that can often be overlooked. The book highlights nooks and crannies that even the most seasoned local hiker may not know about.
One not-so-secret element that the book features is the many watersheds of the valley, from the Marys River Watershed all the way to the North and South Santiam River areas. The book is uniquely arranged in such a way that the watersheds really stand out and guide you through the work.
“Over time, we really ended up defining the book over certain watersheds. We also felt that the watershed idea is another way to educate people about our landscape and how we utilize it in the Mid-Valley communities,” said Jessica McDonald, an associate director with the Greenbelt Land Trust.
McDonald serves on a small steering committee made up of individuals throughout the Willamette Valley that have seen Wild in the Willamette go from an idea to a published work.
The committee includes members of the greater Corvallis community, individuals with the Greenbelt Land Trust and OSU, and area residents who are passionate about the outdoors, sustainability, and the many trails, parks, waterways, and forested areas that make up the Mid-Willamette Valley.
“We started in 2011 when the not-for-profit project first came into being,” McDonald said. A goal of the project has always been to raise awareness of these special places.
Wild in the Willamette, which serves as a companion volume to the Portland-Vancouver region’s Wild in the City, additionally celebrates the vision of Gail Achterman, a pioneer for the protection of Oregon’s natural resources. “Gail passed away and we wanted to honor and continue the legacy that she left here in Oregon,” McDonald said. “We came together and continued to think about the project.”
Editors Anderson and Phillips Metzger were brought on to edit, organize, and work with local storytellers for the book. “We [wanted to] have a balance of each place and what is represented,” McDonald said. “The book brings together so many different voices and so many different places. I’m a native Oregonian through and through, and I think that this book really reflects the Mid-Willamette Valley. I’m so proud that the book ever came to be.”
Wild in the Willamette is a brilliant mix of guidebook and literary essays. Readers can learn everything from the little-known history of the first settlers along the Luckiamute River and throughout Kings Valley to how North American beavers were nearly trapped to extinction in the Willamette Valley in the 1800s.
In addition to the expansive history and natural lessons featured in the book, outdoor enthusiasts can pick and choose from more than 100 hikes and paddles throughout the Mid-Valley. For a local hike, McDonald recommends the ever-popular Bald Hill Natural Area. “It’s the place I think the most people in our community have gone to,” she said. “That one is near and dear to my heart.”
She also prefers to draw people to close-by hidden gems like Kings Valley and Fort Hoskins Historic Park. The Benton County park is the site of a Civil War-era Army fort and includes a collection of preserved historic homes and shelters, a picnic area, and wonderful interpretive trails. The views of Kings Valley from the tops of the easy hiking trails—along with the thrill of getting out of town and still being “close by”—make this a great destination for families or hikers of every experience level.
Wild in the Willamette is also finding its way onto the shelves of small local bookshops throughout the area. “I keep being surprised when I’m in a small town, in a bookstore, and seeing the book there,” McDonald said. “There’s been so much excitement about this book and I think that’s something that’s becoming contagious.”
You can pick up a copy of Wild in the Willamette at Grass Roots Books & Music, the Book Bin, and the Greenbelt Land Trust office downtown. Copies can also be purchased online at osupress.oregonstate.edu.