Did you know that going outdoors in the springtime and smelling the spring flowers is scientifically proven to make you 46% happier?
Actually, we made that up. But spring is certainly a time when Eugene residents find a bit of an extra shimmy in their step as skies grow more dependably blue and floral aromas proliferate.
We tend to avoid the “R” word here when it comes to matters Eugene. But anyone looking to move to Eugene or the Willamette Valley probably knows already: winters tend to be rainy. These rains persist into the spring then dwindle, finally giving way to some of the country’s finest summer weather.
You’ve heard it since you were a kid, but it’s definitely true in Eugene: April showers bring May flowers. So, as we enter the lovely month of May, we’d like to highlight some of the finest mother nature has to offer in and just outside Eugene’s city limits.
(Looking for some fun events around town in the later half of Spring? Then look to our Upcoming Eugene Events article.)
In no particular order:
Wildflower Viewing at Mount Pisgah Arboretum
For wildflower viewing in and around Eugene–and a whole lot more–it doesn’t get much better than Mount Pisgah. “Arboretum,” in case you were wondering, means a botanical garden devoted to trees. The “garden” in this case, is over 200 acres of meadows, forestland, rugged hills and idyllic riverside trails. There are even plenty of swimming holes if you’re ready to brave the chill (the waters warm up to pretty swimmable temperatures in the summer.)
But since it’s spring, of course you’re here for the wildflowers. Beginning in early spring, Osoberry or Indian Plum and Spring Beauty arrive in all their splendor. Following these, trillium appear, including Giant White Wakerobin, common only to the Eugene area. Oregon Fawn Lilies and Camas are also common. Just watch out for the poison oak that also rears its ugly head in the spring.
Looking to encounter these and several hundred other varieties of wildflowers? Then don’t miss the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Wildflower and Music Festival, slated for May 20, 2018. An annual event, the festival features 300 – 400 wildflower species on display, nature walks, a kid’s booth, a plant sale, food vendors, and arts and crafts.
Smelling the Roses at Owen Rose Garden
If 200 acres seems a bit intimidating and you’re looking for a quick walk with plenty of flowers inside the city, the Whiteaker neighborhood’s Owen Rose Garden is an excellent bet. More than 4,500 roses of over 400 varieties, both heritage and heirloom, can be seen, touched (gently) and smelled here.
With picnic tables, grass, a playground and the Willamette River nearby, this is a great spot to bring the whole family for a weekend jaunt. If you’re inspired to take a longer stroll, the Willamette River trail provides over 12 miles of paved bike and pedestrian paths.
Running on Pre’s Trail
Mind you, Eugene’s runners are a dedicated bunch and unlikely to be dissuaded by the rain or the cold. But there’s something truly special about putting on your running shoes and inhaling the brisk spring air on a sunlit morning.
Renowned Eugene runner Steve Prefontaine provided the inspiration for the trail. He hoped it would help spread the influence of running both as a tool for fitness and as a way of life. Although he died an untimely death, his vision certainly came to fruition in Eugene. The city is now known as “Track Town U.S.A.” and is the perennial home of the Olympic trials and other high-profile track events.
The trail was completed in 1975 and spans a 4.07 mile loop through the Harlow Neighborhood’s Alton Baker Park along the Willamette River. With its mulched surface, Pre’s trail provides safe, low-impact running. Say goodbye to shin splints! Mulched trails can also be found along the Amazon Creek in the Amazon neighborhood.
Rhodadendron Blossoms at Hendricks Park
Eugene’s oldest city park, located in the Fairmount neighborhood covers 80 acres and its many forested trails make it a must-visit any time of the year. But the park’s most sublime pleasures are reserved for the spring, when most of its thousands of rhododendrons are in full bloom. Cultivation of the plants began all the way back in 1951, making the garden at Hendricks Park one of the first in the country with such an extensive collection.
Of course, urban gardens don’t simply take care of themselves. Weekly Tuesday and Thursday work parties provide an opportunity to maintain the gardens and enjoy the company of fellow gardeners while learning various techniques.
Planting your Own Garden
Some of the spring’s many pleasures are available even closer to home. Spring is the time to get out into your own backyard and plant a garden in preparation for the summer growing season In Eugene, you’ll certainly be in good company.
Excellent soil, numerous plant nurseries and a dedicated organic gardening community make Eugene a great place to plant seeds, pull weeds, and get a little dirty. If you don’t have space in your own backyard, there are a number of community garden spaces in neighborhoods like the Whiteaker and Far West. These provide small plots where neighbors can plant vegetables and share gardening tips side-by-side.
Bird-Watching at Fern Ridge Reservoir
Listening to the birdsong and mating calls that fill the air as spring approaches, one gets the sense that the birds are just as excited about the change of seasons as we are. The city limits of Eugene feature an impressive array of birds, but Fern Ridge Reservoir west of West Eugene in particular is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Over 250 recorded species of birds make the area their home, an impressive number by Pacific Northwest standards.
Miles of paths traversing parts of Fern Ridge’s 12,000 acres of lake and marshland provide plenty of birdwatching real estate. If you’d rather sit back and wait for the birds to come to you, an elevated platform offers excellent views. Numerous species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and marshbirds, as well as a number of unique species of songbirds, can be seen here. Who knows, you may even catch sight of an unrecorded species.
People-Watching at the Saturday Market
Okay, so the final item on our list technically doesn’t have much to do with nature. But no list of springtime outdoor activities in Eugene would be complete without mention of the Saturday Market.
The Market has been a Eugene fixture since 1970. Local artisans and craftspeople–more than 200 of them to be specific–and 15 different food vendors set up shop downtown every Saturday from the beginning of April through Thanksgiving. All goods at the market have to be handmade by the vendors themselves, ensuring that the market remains uniquely Eugene.
While shopping is certainly the Saturday Market’s most explicit attraction, you may want to simply sit back and experience the atmosphere. Musical acts provide a backdrop of jazz, folk, bluegrass, psychedelic rock and more from a central stage while Eugene’s residents, often at their most colorful, mingle with tourists.
Don’t miss the Farmer’s Market just across the street, with many of the area’s organic farms selling produce straight from their fields. Local bakeries, cheesemakers, and ranchers join them. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. The Market also provides a great chance to interact with your local food producers.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to springtime in Eugene!