If you’re looking to explore a rare ecological area with a unique backstory, try a Beazell Memorial Forest hike in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Setting out for Our Beazell Memorial Forest Hike
On a humid August Oregon morning, we grabbed the dog and made the short drive from Corvallis for a Beazell Memorial Forest hike. We took the back way, lured by a sign offering a glimpse of a covered bridge. Several dirt road miles later, we were awarded with the sight of the Harris Bridge, originally built in 1929.
We were also surprised to find this unexpected gem. We tried counting the rings but gave up far short of the end. Luckily, there was a sign that told us the tree was over 290 years old.
Apparently, the trunk is a remnant of a tree with a twin top. This section broke off and was used to create a roadside display. The rest of the tree is still alive and well at an estimated age of 400 to 500 years
Arriving at Beazell Memorial Forest
When we first arrived, we were greeted by a little white farm house, an original structure dating back to 1875. After parking, getting cameras ready, and the dog leashed, we walked up to inspect the barn and trail map sign. The barn was an original Beazell structure built around the same time as the farmhouse. It was later remodeled in 2007 to become an educational center as well as an event venue.
In front of the barn is a small grass field that gently slopes up and contains a couple of large oak trees. To the left of the barn, we found the trail map and a sign explaining a bit of the history of Beazell Memorial Forest.
Plunkett Creek Trail – One of many Beazell Memorial Forest Hikes
We decided on the Plunkett Creek trail, and maybe the South Ridge Trail if we were feeling ambitious. Beazell Memorial Forest contains many trail options, but with one member of our group already complaining about having to walk, we figured we better start slow.
The 1.34 mile Beazell Forest Plunkett Creek loop starts to the right and slightly behind the barn, immediately taking you over a large footbridge spanning the width of the creek. After the bridge we took a right and began up a slight incline.
It wasn’t far into our Beazell Memorial Forest hike when we came upon a moss covered wooden gazebo. The thick moss and almost abandoned state of it drew us in for a few artsy style photos while the dog looked longingly up the rest of the trail.
The gazebo, which is slightly above the forest floor and is a memorable element of Beazell Memorial Forest, is mainly used as a bird watching spot. People have reported seeing owls, quail, and more, although, I think the most common bird you will see in this area is a flock of wild turkeys.
At the Top, Confusion Sets in
When looking at the sign, all Beazell Memorial Forest hikes seemed pretty straightforward. However, once we reached the top of the hill, the trail seemed to split and we were a little confused on which way it headed. We saw a gate straight ahead with a large tree across the path. Hoping the gate led to a clear-cut overlook, we ventured up and over the fallen tree. Unsurprisingly, my little mini Aussie/ goatdog had the easiest time traversing the fallen obstacle.
At the gate, we realized the journey over the tree was futile. The gate was locked and there was a fence on each side with signs stating no entry. So, we made our way back over the tree and down to the split in the trail.
Back on the Plunkett Creek Loop, we headed down the steepest part of the path, which was a moderate trail at most. We crossed over another footbridge and continued on our way to the split where the South Ridge Trail connects. We made the decision to try this trail and see if we could get our clear-cut logging views from the top.
Hiking the South Ridge Trail
Once on the South Ridge trail, we climbed through switch back after switchback. The higher we climbed and the father we got from the forest floor, the more we felt the humidity. About halfway up, the dog even seemed to slow a little bit. Through the heat, humidity, and even an encounter with a snake darting across the trail, we made it to the top.
Unfortunately, we were a little disappointed. The trees were all overgrown, and the view did not live up to our expectations. Instead of staying in the hot sun and continuing down the South Ridge Trail, we made our way back down the switchbacks and into the cool temperate rainforest floor of Beazell Memorial Forest.
Back down in the cool, we found more footbridges crossing the creek. Kimber stopped to wade in the creek a few times while we snapped photos and Instagram videos of our Beazell Memorial Forest hike.
About halfway down this leg of the trail, we saw a well-worn area off the main path. Down a steep embankment and across the creek sat an abandoned vintage car. With no explanation of how it made its way to the middle of the forest, we were enthralled. We tiptoed across the creek and climbed up to the car to look inside.
It was basically just a shell, no interior, no engine, but still fun to look at. Maybe some of you will have an idea of the make and model. We showed pictures to our resident auto experts and all came up blank. If you have any ideas, please let us know in the comments below.
After the car, the trail connected back to the main section, crossing several streams via footbridges. Soon, we were heading past the gazebo, over the large footbridge to the trailhead. Our Beazell Memorial Forest hike had come to an end.
A Little History About Beazell Memorial Forest
Beazell Memorial Forest was donated to the county in 2002, but the story begins many years before. Fred Beazell and Dolores Anthony met while working at Varian Associates in Silicon Valley. They immediately felt a connection and began dating. Unfortunately, Delores’s family was not supportive of their relationship, and they were unable to marry until the death of Delores’s mother.
A couple years before the marriage in 1968, Fred began purchasing over-forrested land and abandoned pastures in Kings Valley. He loved the land but was intent on creating a hideaway for himself and the woman he hoped to someday call his bride.
He had a passion for of planting trees, and it quickly became his obsession to plant trees on the 586 acres he now owned. Over the course of the next three decades, he would spend weekends and free time digging holes and give life to seedlings. Prior to moving to the property, Fred frequently made the drive to pursue his hobby.
After retiring in 1981, the Beazells moved to Kings Valley to begin construction on a home on their dream property. The Beazells enjoyed their property by hiking, and endless bird watching. They were also known for constantly maintaining bird feeders for their wildlife friends.
Unfortunately, Dolores was only able to enjoy the new home for a few years as she passed away in 1993. Upon Fred’s death, the 586 acres was donated to Benton County, and the Beazell Memorial Forest was created for future generations to enjoy. Beazell Memorial Forest is popular for hiking and bird watching.
The county has added a few details to the property, such as bathrooms, the educational center, and footbridges. Today, they are working on adding more trails to utilize more of the property.