A blue heron lands softly just ahead of your boat as you paddle down the Tualatin River. On either side of you, the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge rises from the steep banks. The downstream hustle and bustle of the river near Tualatin, Tigard and West Linn is miles away and here a belted kingfisher swoops overhead. The only sound to compete with the breeze as it rushes by your ears is the trickle of water from your paddle as it glides into and out of the water.
For now, accessing this section of river means dedicating yourself to 10-plus miles of paddling, from Rood Bridge in Hillsboro to Eagle’s Landing in Washington County. But you’ll soon be able to enter the river from a paddle-access boat launch at Farmington Road in Washington County, thanks to a major award of $287,500 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation District’s local grant program, funded by Oregon lottery dollars.
“The opportunity to help people connect with their watershed – and, more importantly, their drinking water source – is incredible” says Metro parks planner Rod Wojtanik. “This is a beautiful and serene area of the Tualatin. Connecting people to it can help everyone understand the importance of protecting and conserving places like this in the region.”
Construction is slated to begin in 2016 and wrap up that fall, helping realize a longtime goal. This project completes the first section of the Tualatin River Water Trail, defined by a river access point every five miles, which has been on the books since 1992 as part of the regional Greenspaces Master Plan.
Metro purchased two parcels of land at this location alongside the Tualatin in 2000 to secure public access to the river, investing funds from a voter-approved natural areas bond measure. However, until now, the $680,000 budget to develop the boat launch had not been completely secured.
With this grant, it’s possible to develop the launch and visitor facilities in an area that also contains steep riverside topography, wetland habitat, and a riverbank that changes with high and low water from season to season.