Philip Foster Farm and Barton Park (Eagle Creek/Barton)
Although I grew up not far from where the Oregon Trail once wound along the Clackamas River to its end in Oregon City, it wasn’t until I accompanied my kids on a school field trip that I discovered that historic Philip Foster Farm, located in Eagle Creek, is well worth the admission ($20/car or $5/person). Open May through September, this is a great spot for kids to connect with Oregon history.
What makes this historical park extra special is how hands-on they let kids be. Instead of watching a laundry demonstration, my kids got to scrub clothes on a real washboard and run them through the ringer. Instead of merely hearing of the struggles of the pioneers, they packed a wagon and made tough choices between blankets, tools or food.
Other activities include touring a mid-1800s furnished farmhouse, hand-grinding corn, and peering into a blacksmith’s shop—one place where, thankfully, the demonstration was NOT hands-on. We really also enjoyed poking around the country store, filled with old-fashioned gifts like corn-husk dolls and wooden toys.
Though the farm offers plenty of picnic tables, a quick drive west on Highway 224 brings us to Barton Park for a riverside picnic. This is a great family favorite of ours, and many a Saturday afternoon will find us here pretty much any time of the year. (Hint: Visit between Oct. 1 and Memorial Day to enjoy the park without any day-use fee.)
Picnic areas are scattered through the park. My favorite stands right by the Clackamas River not far from the boat ramp. In the winter, the parking lot here is generally quiet enough to let the bigger kids ride their bikes around, and a nearby baseball diamond provides a big area to run remote-control trucks, planes and helicopters.
With smaller children in tow, the picnic tables next to the playground are a perfect place to enjoy lunch while the kids play. And just down a little slope behind the playground is a marshy little pond where my kids like to collect tadpoles, reeds and water nymphs. Nearby is yet another parking lot, which is usually roped off in the winter and makes a great place to ride bikes.
For more extensive visits, Barton Park also offers camping, hiking trails, sand volleyball, and a summer movie or two. During the summer months, lower water levels make it possible for kids to wade and build bridges and dams along the edge of the river in several spots—although keep in mind this river runs cold and swift year-round, so keep those life-jackets on!
Next time you’re overcome by “Mom,we’re bored,” just load up the gang and head east of Clackamas for a little history, a little nature and a great, big pile of fun!
Laurel Rogers is a work-from-home writer, magazine editor, and mom to grade-school twins and a toddler-sized surprise. She writes from Clackamas, Oregon.
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