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Run Oregon Routes: Salem Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park loop

riverfront-park-salem-sternwheeler
Location: Salem Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park
Distance: Approx. 3.25 miles
Runs on this Route: Salem Run'ucpoia, Liberty House Fun Run

The riverfront area of Salem is quickly becoming a race hub and there are numerous capitol city races that utilize this park and the cross-river Wallace Marine Park as the site for 5k and 10k’s alike. And for good reason. The park offers ample parking for small-medium races and plenty of open space for spreading out and bringing the family to have a full day after the actual race. If your kids/significant other groan about how boring a race is after you leave the starting area, races at Salem Riverfront Park offer a carousel, large playground, kid’s museum, and a coffee shop.  And it’s only mere minutes from the hub of Salem and the various restaurants nearby.

The Run Oregon Routes feature is designed to give a little visual and verbal description for you readers out there to know where we enjoy running and potentially highlight wonderful new places to get your run on. We are hoping it provides something a little different to the blog and community.

This Run Oregon Route is even a little more special to me, as I run the route pretty much every single day. I work in downtown Salem and utilize my lunch hour as the perfect opportunity to take to the streets and get a run in. My personal route adds an extra 1.4 miles (.7 each way) to get to and from the Union Street Bridge. I also try to do an extra loop around the park to increase my distance as well.

For the purpose of this route, I am going to begin and end the route distance at the Union Street Pedestrian Bridge on the east side of the river. There is parking near the main street and also 2 bigger parking lots in the park itself.

Union Street Pedestrian Bridge

Union Street Pedestrian Bridge

START – The Union Street Pedestrian Bridge was converted from an old unused railroad bridge a few years back, and has really provided an easy connection between Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park, and essentially connected Salem and West Salem as well. The only way over the Willamette used to be on a small sidewalk on Highway 22, only feet away from the loud, fast driving, smoke emitting cars and trucks. It really was not convenient. The pedestrian bridge opened up extra miles for trail and road running, and effectively added one more spot in Salem to hold races that doesn’t require shutting down any city streets.

Start east and head over the bridge. The views to the south are pretty nice, if not a little obscured by Highway 22. The view to North is pretty serene if you ask me.
Upcoming turn into Wallace Marine Park

Upcoming turn into Wallace Marine Park

Following the crossing of the Willamette, there is a hairpin turn that leads runners off of the bridge and down into the Wallace Marine Park.

Runners will then turn north onto a road for a short sting. There is a paved path on the West side of the street as well. I typically run out on the road and return on the path, but this can be done either way, as they are within feet of each other. The main road leading into the park is a little over a half mile into your run, but don’t follow it out, as you will want to continue heading towards the Softball complex. Depending on the time of day and season, this road is blocked off to cars, but is always accessible by foot. A bark path appears on the East side of the road at this juncture and is typically pretty well maintained.
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Start of the bark trail in Wallace Marine Park

Mile 1 – Once you reach the softball complex, the bark path will curve to the left around a parking area and head further north into the brush. There are a few trail options, but the one I typically take is the first left turnoff. This leads under a small canopy of trees and hits another bark trail at a T-junction. Heading left at this point leads runners out on the other side of the softball fields.

Canopy of trees at the far north end of the softball complex

Canopy of trees at the far north end of the softball complex

This path continues along the top of some miniature hills and hits Glen Creek Road. Look both ways as you cross the road and follow the bark path back to the pedestrian bridge.

Bark trail on the way to Glen Creek Road

Bark trail on the way to Glen Creek Road

Mile 2- Once you climb back up and cross back over the Willamette, you will be back where you started.  At this point take a right and head south on the sidewalks towards the park. This is where you will pass by the children’s museum and coffee shop before hitting the paved park trails.
Gilbert's Discovery Village - a post-run treat for the kiddos

Gilbert’s Discovery Village – a post-run treat for the kiddos

Inside the park limits, continue along the western edge of park. If you are lucky, you may see the Willamette Sternwheeler chugging in the river or parked at the dock. Runners will pass by the small amphitheater and a sign outlining the location of the (hopefully) soon to be built pedestrian bridge that would connect Riverfront park to Minto Brown Park – effectively opening up an interconnected path of three parks and hundreds of miles of continuous trails (and hopefully part of a Salem marathon in the future – fingers crossed). Check out theFriends of Two Bridges Facebook page for details.

Future site of the bike and pedestrian bridge into Minto Brown Park

Future site of the bike and pedestrian bridge into Minto Brown Park

Circle around the Eco-Earth, pass by the playground and carousel around mile 3 and return to the sidewalks along the Willamette. This final stretch will put you back at the pedestrian bridge, closing out your run just after Mile 3.

Eco-Earth

Eco-Earth

This Run Oregon Route and its accessible location makes it very easy to jump into the route at a variety of parking lots on both sides of the river. If you are just starting out, you can start with this 5k distance and repeat as you progress.

If you find yourself in the capital city, consider taking in a run here. And if you happen to see a goofy guy in sunglasses, headphones, and a race shirt, make sure to say hi!

If you would like to submit your own Run Oregon Route with pictures, let us know! Email us at runoregonblog@gmail.com and let us know about your route. We would love some great user submissions!
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About Matt Rasmussen (1315 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010. Matt joined the Run Oregon team in October 2011, and since then he has spearheaded the blog’s efforts to cover product reviews, news about businesses related to running, and running events in the Willamette Valley.

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