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Springwater Corridor: Sellwood to OMSI (SE Portland)
My kids don’t seem to grasp the notion that they are only allowed to get cabin fever in the summer, when there’s no end of opportunities to work out the wiggles on playgrounds, in parks and at the pool. Fortunately, they love to ride bikes, but our neighborhood street isn’t the sort of place I really want them to go for a spin, so I’m glad we’ve discovered a protected bike path that makes an easy half-day adventure for our little family on any decent day, even in mid-winter.
The Springwater Corridor is part of a massive loop of bike paths circumnavigating the eastern half of the Portland Metro area. Daunting as that loop is, one great section for families runs between Sellwood and OMSI right along the eastern bank of the Willamette River.
We begin our route at Sellwood Riverfront Park, which offers parking right by an access point to the bike path. Perhaps even more importantly, the park has bathrooms—unlike the path, so be sure to make a visit before you gear up and go!
Access to the path is at the top of the parking lot along SE Oaks Park Way. The path is paved and mostly level, which makes it great for all ages and a variety of transportation modes. In our family, that usually means Dad on his recumbent bike, two kids on regular bikes and baby tucked into the jogging stroller that I’m pushing.
And with that, we are off! The bikers speed away and I find myself surrounded by a shocking (read: delightful!) lack of “Mom? Mom? Mom!?” as I glance to the right at the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (to which the path provides access, in case you want to explore) and to the left at the tree-lined river bank.
As we continue north and pass Oaks Bottom, the path moves closer to the river and gives great views of the birds and boats enjoying the slough behind Ross Island. Just a bit south of Ross Island Bridge, there is some intriguing public art along the pathway. A couple of waterfront tables make for a beautiful snack break with the kids.
The Ross Island Bridge is almost three miles from Sellwood Park—a pretty easy bike ride for little kids and an aggressive walk for Mom. Since we split up the kid duties, Dad takes the big kids another half mile or so to OMSI, where the path goes right up behind the museum’s giant propellers. This requires a very short (about a block) ride along a quiet street to connect with the bike path again.
Hint: While I haven’t had to try it yet, I’m pretty sure if OMSI is open, you can get to restrooms inside the lobby without having to pay admission.
If your family is feeling really energetic, you can carry on to the north and even join up with the Eastbank Esplanade floating pathway. Just be sure to turn around when you’re only half tired because it can be a long haul back to Sellwood with cranky kids!
Because the path is enjoyed by a wide variety of walkers, joggers, skaters and bikers, it’s important to take a few minutes to discuss “rules of the road” with kids so serious bikers can pass them safely. I found even the most devoted bikers to be polite and careful, but it’s still important to return the favor and not pull U-turns or stop right in the middle of the path.
Once we return to Sellwood, the kids enjoy leaving their bikes at the van and racing down to the waterfront. The dock often shelters an interesting yacht or two and summertime leaves the water level low enough to provide a narrow, sandy beach, so you might want to bring life jackets along just in case.
No matter if you want to walk, jog, skate or bike, this stretch of Springwater Corridor provides a safe place to work out the wiggles year-round for the great low price of free (no coupon required!).
Ready to discover (or re-discover) Portland? From the coast to the Gorge, from Clark County to Salem, The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun will allow you to experience the awesomeness this area has to offer!
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