The Camassia Nature Preserve in West Linn, Oregon is a 26-acre natural area known for its beautiful wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and easy, family-friendly trails.
For a few brief weeks every spring, wildflower fields along the Columbia River burst forth in a rhapsody of blue.
It is Camas Season.
Though it closely resembles a lily, the Camas plant ("Camassia quamash") is actually a member of the asparagus family. It was unknown to science before Lewis and Clark made their Voyage of Discovery. The flowers grow in clearings along the Columbia River, and were once so abundant in the Pacific Northwest that that non-indigenous travelers would mistake the blue covered fields for distant lakes.
The quamash is now in blume and from the colour of its bloom at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete is this deseption that on first sight I could I could have sworn it was water.
~ Meriwether Lewis, Personal Journal, 1806
It’s becoming more difficult to find those wide blue meadows in these modern times. Many are secreted away in elusive alpine meadows along the Columbia River Gorge, and you must do the work to find them. (And by work, I mean Hike, with a capital H, as in up-Hill.)
There is, however, at least one place you can go to easily experience the camas lilies in bloom, along with a host of other wildflowers, native plants, and animals – at the Camassia Nature Preserve in West Linn, Oregon.
The Camassia Nature Preserve is a 26-acre natural area owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The nature area is renown for its beautiful wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and easy, family-friendly trails.
Named for the common blue camas that blanket its meadows each spring, the preserve holds something for visitors to experience year-round.
Did you Know? Camas was an important food source for the indigenousness peoples of Northwest. Bulbs could be fire-roasted and provided a nutritious, sweet-tasting, high-protein staple.
The rocky plateau upon which the nature area sits was originally formed by ice-age, glacier-fueled floods. It now provides a habitat for more than three-hundred plants, and is home to a myriad of meadow, tree, and pond dwellers as well; including deer, raccoons, skunks, hummingbirds, wood ducks, raptors, newts, osprey, salamanders, and a choir of songbirds.
I managed to get a super-short clip of a little red-headed woodpecker in action. ⬇️ (You'll see him right under the arrow is when you hit Start.)
The 1 ½ mile loop trail is well-maintained and family-friendly. Most of the trail is covered with bark chips, and some potentially muddy stretches are also lined with a composite boardwalk. Hikers are asked to stay on the trails to protect and preserve the wildlife.
If you are planning to hike the park with little ones, be aware that there are a couple of places where you are going to want to be extra vigilant, particularly on the short stretch of the trail that overlooks the river: there is a wide berth between the edge and the trail, but there are no guard rails.
While we’re discussing cautions, be sure to watch out for poison oak at the trail edges. We didn’t see any on our visit, but there are warnings about it all over the preserve.
When we visited, we saw hikers as young as two and as old as eighty. Despite the warning about the "big hill up ahead!" that we received form one particularly helpful five-year old as we passed her on the trail, there were only a few very slight uphill climbs, but nothing remotely demanding. (Note that while the hike rates an “Easy” in my book, the trail is not wheelchair accessible.)
The park is located directly across the Willamette River from downtown Oregon City, behind West Linn High School. The Conservancy partners with high school ecology students, who use the nature area as an outdoor classroom and help keep it litter-free.
More family-friendly hikes can be found on our Hikes page. Always check trail conditions before going out in the PNW. Things change quickly sometimes.
Did you happen to notice the cool lens-ball image at the top of this post? I bought an inexpensive photo-sphere last fall, and since then I've been have been having so much fun with it!
A photo sphere / lens ball is one of the most inexpensive, easy-to-use photo hacks around, and the results are just so cool!
When you take a picture through a glass sphere (i.e., lens ball), the image will appear inverted, much like the image you see when looking at yourself in a spoon.
Many times, fixing this is as easy as simply rotating the whole image upside-down, as I did in the first image in this post. (You probably didn't notice it, but all of the background foliage in the title image is upside-down! )
Other images require a bit more finessing. For example, this small image is the original shot for the image above. Note how the ground inside the sphere appears to be at the top of the sphere, which looks weird no matter how you turn it.
To correct this visual dissonance, I cut out the original sphere image using a circle frame, flipped it 180°, and layered it back onto the original image.
The result is a complete image in which everything appears right-side up. This little trick doesn't require any special skill, knowledge, or expensive software - I skipped Photoshop this time and just flipped it on PicMonkey.
Camassia Nature Preserve
5000 Walnut Street
West Linn, OR 97068
- There are several entrances to the nature area. The main trailhead is located in a small neighborhood parking area at the end of Walnut Street. There is also an entrance at West Linn High School, and another entrance in a nearby neighborhood.
- Parking is limited to a small lot at the trail entrance at the end of Walnut Street. This can be very congested at peak times of the year.
- During the spring and summer, volunteers lead guided hikes and teach visitors about the ecology of the preserve.
- Hikers are required to stay on the trails in order to avoid disturbing the wildlife.
- Dogs, bicycles, horses, camping, hunting, littering, fires, and motorized vehicles are prohibited on the preserve.
Wildflower season: Mid-April through early May.
Additional locations where you may find camas fields seasonally in bloom include:
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