Willamette Water Trail’s New River Mile Signage

Posted on April 12, 2023

The mighty Willamette River is a nationally recognized Water Trail and now has improved signage aids, geared toward helping boaters get their bearings. River mile signage is placed in roughly 10-mile increments through a multi-agency partnership to improve river recreation safety, from Eugene, downstream to Lake Oswego. The new river mile signs face the river so people on the water can easily identify put-in and take-out access points, the actual river mile, and who owns or manages the river access site. Some signs also include site amenities and “leave no trace” reminders.

“Paddling as a family-fun boating activity has really taken off,” said Ashley Massey, Public Information Officer with the Oregon State Marine Board. “During the COVID restrictions, more people were heading to the water with very little knowledge and skills around the inherent risks of the river. In 2020 and 2021, there was a surge of rescues, close calls, and several fatalities.” Massey adds, “With river mile markers as aids, the use of maps and itineraries, and careful planning around obstructions, it’s our hope boaters will know where they are on the river and can help first responders know their location faster when minutes count.”

The Water Trail covers 187 miles of the mainstem Willamette River to the confluence of the Columbia River, and several miles of the river on the Coast Fork Willamette, Middle Fork Willamette, and the McKenzie River. The river mile signage begins in Eugene’s Delta Ponds at river mile 180 and continues downstream to river mile 20 in Lake Oswego’s Foothills Park. Downstream from Lake Oswego entering more densely populated urban areas, mixed boating activities abound. There are many other land markers that negate the need for further signage.

With a host of Willamette Greenway parks and natural areas, administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Water Trail maintains a host of opportunities to access the Willamette River for boating and boat-in camping. “We invite paddlers from all over the state to come and enjoy the water trail, said Ryan Sparks, OPRD’s Park Resource Program Manager for the Valleys Region. “When you connect with the river, you become a natural steward of the river. The more people who care about its health and respect its value, the more we all benefit.”

Improving signage along the Willamette River Water Trail is a joint partnership between Willamette Valley Visitor’s Association, Oregon State Parks, Willamette Riverkeeper, and the Oregon State Marine Board.

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