PHOTOS: Willamette and McKenzie Rivers Swell, Nature Is Happy

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect a second trip to Alton Baker Park.

On June 12, both the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers swelled as the two areas received a heavy downpour overnight and throughout the day.

  • A green metal park bench is now in the middle of river water which has swelled far past its bank. In the background, a large bridge.
  • Another green metal park bench and a black bike rack beside it are now wading in the Willamette River. Toward the right of the frame is a bunch of wood that has washed up onto what would be cement.
  • Yours truly, looking down at my feet, to see that what should be dry-ish grass is, instead, completely inundated with water.
  • Looking out towards the bike/pedestrian path next to Alton Baker Park. It's inundated with water to the point that there are legit mini waves/ripples that reach beyond the grass.
  • Looking at the bike/pedestrian path next to Alton Baker Park in the other direction than the previous photo. Water is flooding the path and rippling past the grass.

Nature, though, seemed to be pretty pleased with the circumstances.

At Alton Baker Park, the Willamette inundated the pedestrian path and made it more accessible for our waterfowl friends of all ages. The riverbanks, usually accessible by foot, were now impassable and, as a result, people who had been living along the Willamette were forced to move and abandon their belongings.

  • Four adult sized Canadian Geese and several, around five or six, itty bitty young ones. They're all grazing on the grass near where it has flooded over the bike/pedestrian path.
  • Two Mallards, a male and a female, entirely floating on what should be grass dip their heads in.
  • A dozen or so Mallards, female and male, graze on the grass thats inundated by the Willamette River.
  • Two Mallards dip down into the water, sticking their buttons and legs up in the air, on what should be the bike/pedestrian path next to Alton Baker Park.
  • The bank of the Willamette River is completed flooded. Bits of wood drift on the surface along with a couple of swimming Mallard ducks. — one female, one male.
  • In the middle of this frame is a dark windy trail. About halfway up the photo it is immediately flooded from the Willamette River. On both sides of the trail are lush, bright green plants and trees.
  • Another view of the bank of the Willamette River showing the water level as compared to what would otherwise be trees planted in dry ground.
  • Another offshoot trail. This one is also dark but is lined with large rocks and boulders. There is lush bright green vexation all around. An area in the top part of the frame is underwater but is normally accessible.
A photograph of a large, beige colored sleeping bag lays on the dark trail. Directly in the middle of the frame is the beginning of one of the offshoot trails that go down to, normally accessible, flatter parts of the river bank.
Someone who had been living along the bank of the Willamette River was forced to move and abandon their sleeping bag. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

There was a possible cause for concern, however. A large, clear plastic tarp, that seemed to only be held down by a few bales of hay, was at risk of being swept away towards the Pacific Ocean.

Looking under the a large bridge towards the river There are bales of hay and clear plastic tarp that is floating on the surface.
Bales of hay are all that keep a large, clear plastic tarp from being swept away by the swelling Willamette River under the Peter DeFazio Bridge on June 12, 2022. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

At Day Island Park, in Springfield, the McKenzie River swelled much the same as the Willamette. The parking lot for the park was nearly completely filled and ducks swam freely until an inconsiderate pair of men driving a black pickup truck decided they wanted to also have fun in the water, effectively scaring them all away.

  • The bottom of the driveway that leads to Day Island Park and it's parking lot is inundated with water from the McKenzie River. A green bridge is seen going over the river on the right side of the frame.
  • Day Island Park's parking lot, normally above water, is inundated by the McKenzie River. Springfield's Main Street Bridge can be seem in the background.
  • The grassy river bank next to the McKenzie River and bike/pedestrian path at Day Island Park is flooding grass and moving towards the path.
  • The river bank is now river. A fallen tree in the middle of the frame is causing a large ripple in the water's movement.

By 6:30 p.m., the Willamette River had continued to swell to the point that it was nearing, if not at, the high level mark from Dec. 26, 1964. The benches, that were wading earlier, now had their seats almost completely submerged by the river.

  • A metal green bench wades in the swelling Willamette River next to a sign showing the High Water Mark from Dec. 26, 1964.
  • The metal sitting bench further down the pedestrian path has its seat almost completely underwater. A line of wood that has washed up marks where the swelling currently ends.
  • The sitting benches near the Peter DeFazio Bridge are sitting in even more water from the Willamette River than earlier today.
  • One of the green sitting benches has its seat nearly completely underwater as the Willamette River swells.

Nature, though, was happy. And that’s all that mattered.

  • A blue heron, I am pretty sure, stands proud on one of the fences around what should be more of a pond but is now much more filled with water.
  • What should be grass and bark away from the bank of the Willamette River is now just riverbed.
  • An assortment of about a dozen ducks included a bleach white one swimming on grass.

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