It’s an exciting time of year at Oxbow Regional Park. Fall colors are peaking and thousands of salmon are making their annual expedition from the Pacific Ocean up the Sandy River to spawn and die where they were born.
Join us for Salmon Homecoming
Nothing says “Pacific Northwest” like the annual return from the ocean of salmon, fighting upstream to spawn and die in the rivers of their birth. Come witness this ancient, iconic phenomenon at Oxbow Regional Park along the Sandy River!
Naturalists will be on hand to help you spot the salmon and explore other parts of the park’s 1,000 acres of old-growth forest, hiking and equestrian trails and river beaches. In collaboration with the Native American community, Salmon Homecoming will feature cultural activities including indigenous drum groups, a salmon bake and storytelling.
Where: Oxbow Regional Park
3010 SE Oxbow Pkwy, Gresham
Dates: Sat. Oct. 13 and Sun. Oct. 14, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Costs: $5/car, $7/bus; no registration required
Those attending this year’s Salmon Homecoming will notice the nearly completed welcome center. The center, expected to open by mid-November, is the first of its kind on a Metro property and will serve as a hub for the park. It’s a first stop for visitors to get oriented with maps and general park information, and the center’s educational elements are designed to spark visitors’ curiosity about nature.
“The purpose is to create a welcoming and safe environment where people can get inspired to go out and explore on their own,” said George Winborn, a communications specialist at Metro who worked on the center’s educational and interpretive components. “Everything that’s in the nature center is textural and excites a kid to touch it and feel it.”
That textural experience begins with the Sandy River pattern etched into the sidewalk outside the welcome center. The river pattern flows from the sidewalk into the building, ending at a 6-by-6 foot perspective map illustrating the connection between Mount Hood, the Sandy River, salmon, plants and other wildlife at Oxbow.
Kids can follow 11 sets of wildlife tracks from the front door to the reception area where they’ll discover what animal – perhaps a bear, beaver, squirrel, or deer – made them. There’s a floor-to-ceiling engraved metal panel with hidden animals to find and a display of seasonal plant and wildlife cards.
The 2,600-square-foot modernist timber frame building designed by DAO Architecture also houses staff offices, public restrooms, a locker room and a multipurpose room.
“We’ve put in about three times more function than would normally be incorporated in a building this size,” said Chris Woo, a construction project manager at Metro who oversaw the project.
Money for the new building came from the parks and natural areas levy that voters approved in 2013 and revenue generated from prior salmon festivals at Oxbow.
“With staff growing and visitors increasing, we’re excited to have more space to operate and conduct daily business with a little breathing room,” said Kendra Carrillo, lead park ranger at Oxbow.
She believes the welcome center will improve park operations and visitor experience. Seven new parking spaces will ease congestion at the main entrance and allow visitors a chance to stop at the center.
Carrillo said park staff commonly field questions by phone that range from curiosity about exposed trees on the banks of the Sandy River to the last major eruption of Mount Hood and how the park formed.
“With the educational aspect, it is going to give us more opportunities to engage the public about the history of the park and how that relates to specific features you can see or look for while recreating,” she said.
Christine and Clifton Bruno have been involved with the salmon festival for many years and know Oxbow well. “Our families both grew up fishing smelt along the Sandy so we have a special relationship with the space,” Christine Bruno said.
They’ve helped identify different points in the park of interest from both natural and indigenous perspectives.
“For example there’s a cedar grove along one of the trails,” Christine Bruno said. “It’s a perfect spot where people would make a camp because it’s already sheltered.”
The welcome center opens up new opportunities about what’s possible at Oxbow, they said. They are considering projects or demonstrations the indigenous community could do, like using cedar planks to build a temporary shelter.
“It’s going to make it feel like more of a destination for the community,” Clifton Bruno said. “A place to show people everything Oxbow has to offer…besides just a shelter to have lunch in.”