I know you’ve seen Garden Lake Park, but have you been there?
Located along the freeway between the Creswell overpass and Hobby Field (the Creswell Airport), Garden Lake Park is easily visible while driving north on I-5. I had been there once, many years ago, when we first bought our canoe. On that trip, we spent a lot of time watching sky divers and talking with other boaters out on the lake. They were mostly people out fishing, but one boat was full of young guys “crocodile hunting.” (I don’t think they caught anything!). That was probably 15 to 20 years ago.
This summer, we thought it would be fun to explore Garden Lake again. Since we’d been there last, an official park has been built and the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council has done a lot of restoration work there.
We launched our canoe last weekend in the middle of the afternoon — not the best time for wildlife viewing or bird watching — and I was surprised by the number of birds that we saw, especially green herons. Garden Lake is pretty small and it doesn’t take long to explore it all, but we took our time, enjoying all the dragon flies, watching an osprey hunt the lake, and seeing all the airplanes coming in for a landing.
The pavilion, which is visible from the freeway, is actually an interpretive area, showcasing the history, biology, and ecology of the area, plus there is a cute little nature trail and a fishing dock. From the lake we also saw some foot bridges, which apparently connect the lake with a housing development to the east with the park .
Garden Lake, like the ponds at Row River Nature Park in Cottage Grove and Delta Ponds in Eugene, was an old gravel pit, created when I-5 was constructed. The whole park is only 34-acres, much of that the ponds. If you’re heading out there, especially with a boat of some sort, it’s helpful to look at a map first, to see how all the bodies of water are connected together.
Since our outing last weekend, I’ve tried to find out more about the park. The information on the city’s page is extremely limited, however more can be found on the Watershed Council’s website.
Getting there: From Cottage Grove, head north on I-5. Take the Creswell exit (#182) and turn right onto Cloverdale Road, the left on Emerald Parkway and left on Melton Road, like you are going to the airport. Garden Lake Park is on your right.