Last week, I posted about the Row River Trail, its beginnings, and my intent to explore and feature the trail over the next several months. It makes sense then — to me — to explore the end of the trail in this post.
Historically, as a rail line the Trail has had a couple endings. Originally constructed in 1902, it was first operated to haul ore, timber, and supplies into and from the Row River Valley. An excursion line, called the Blue Goose, shared the rail line with the freight trains starting in 1970. However, the 1980s saw the end of first the freight trains and then the Blue Goose. Eventually, in 1994, Willamette Industries (which owned the line by this time) traded the right of way with the Bureau of Land Management. It was the BLM that developed the Trail, with the City of Cottage Grove acquiring the first 3 miles to link the trail to downtown.
Physically, the end of the paved Row River Trail is the Culp Creek Trailhead just outside the city of Dorena. It is 15.5 miles from Trailhead Park to the Culp Creek Trailhead via the Row River Trail. The trail is wide, well maintained, and relatively flat for the whole length. When you ride the trail, you’ll pass pasture land, covered bridges, Dorena dam and reservoir, filming locations for the movie “Stand By Me,” and (in the spring) many different wildflowers. Once you pass Dorena reservoir and head up toward the town of Dorena, it feels more “foresty” to me. If it is during the work week, you might see log trucks on the road and you’ll definitely see swaths of logged land on the hillside. You’ll get a sense as to why the rail line was so necessary in the early years; these are the timber lands which helped to create Cottage Grove.
Unbeknownst to most people, is that even though the pavement ends and there is a “trail ends” sign, the trail doesn’t truly end. It goes on for a while further, maybe a mile or so. We explored it last summer after learning about the unpaved, unadvertised section from a local forest ranger. Honestly, there isn’t much there beyond a packed dirt path through blackberry brambles and poison oak. But for those who like to explore, it is interesting to check out.