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The Row River Trail is part of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. Small-town charm, a lake at the foot of the Cascades, and a mostly flat path escort you past Dorena Dam and historic covered bridges. Lane County has more covered bridges than any county west of the Mississippi River.
The trail follows the route of the former Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railroad line, running along the scenic shore of the Row River and Dorena Reservoir and paralleling Row River Road for most of the way. Nearby, you'll find quaint covered bridges and the historic Bohemia mining area. The 3-mile section of trail from Cottage Grove to the Mosby Creek trailhead is managed by the city of Cottage Grove, while the remainder of the trail is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Cottage Grove has a downtown commercial historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Willamette Valley was one of the great farming areas of the 1880s. In the early part of the 20th century, the area relied on the "Old Slow and Easy," more formally known as the Oregon & Southeastern Railroad, to transport goods and people from Cottage Grove to Disston, just past Culp Creek.
From the Cottage Grove trailhead, 3 city miles deliver you to the beautiful Mosby Creek trailhead. After another 3.5 miles, you'll arrive at Dorena Dam, which prevents the flooding of towns downstream. You'll pass Row Point, which displays the colorful, protected remnants of the native prairie, eventually reaching Harms Park Trestle—featured in the movies Emperor of the North and Stand by Me.
Smith Creek provides habitats for a host of flora and fauna and was once the site of an early settler's orchard; you'll see the remains below Smith Creek Bridge. You'll then pass through post-dam Dorena before completing your tour at Culp Creek—1 of more than 20 early-1900s mill towns that popped up along Row River, sprouting from the short-line railroad from Cottage Grove to the Umpqua National Forest.
To reach the western trailhead, from Interstate 5 in Cottage Grove, take Exit 174 toward Dorena Lake. Keep right at the exit ramp, following signs for the city center, and merge onto Row River Road. After 0.6 mile, turn left on State Route 99, and go 0.7 mile. Turn left onto Main Street; the trailhead will be on the left.
To start outside the city at the Mosby Creek trailhead, from I-5, turn left (east) off the Exit 174 ramp onto Row River Road. Drive 0.7 mile east on Row River Road. Turn right onto Currin Conn Road. Immediately afterward, turn left onto Mosby Creek Road. Go 2 miles southeast on Mosby Creek Road, and then turn left onto Lang Road. Take a quick left into the parking lot. Parking is also provided at smaller trailheads along the way, including Culp Creek.
While I love experiencing the various trails around the country, this is one of the best. You can just really ride (even fast) for a long time, versus having to stop for many street crossings. The scenery is very pretty, especially around the lake. It is well marked and easy to get to. The trail is maintained well, plenty wide for passing, and over-all a total joy! I rode it 2 days in a row before we moved on to our next adventure. Enjoy!
Beautiful and diverse trail. My favorite so far. Loved seeing Dorena Lake about mid way
We love this trail. We try to ride it every time we come from Southern California to visit family in the Northwest. There is lots of variety and great scenery. Starting in Cottage Grove it doesn't hurt that it's mostly downhill on the way back.
There was more damage this year than before but nearly all the damage was clearly marked.
If you are camping, check out Schwartz Campground. It is nice and only about a half mile from the trail.
Mid winter, mid week ride on a wonderful trail. Trail hazards are marked so clearly that they are impossible to miss, only a handful are unavoidable and those are easily traversed by slowing down just a little bit. Most are areas of pavement heaved up by the many trees along the trail. The shade along the upper half of the trail makes this a very good summer ride.
Like many shaded Western Oregon trail there is some moss that grows along the edges of the trail, but 95% of the trail surface is clean pavement. Like most converted rail lines the grades are manageable by even small children and the road crossings have clear sight paths to enhance the safety at these crossings. Due to log truck traffic one or two do require some caution at the crossing.
Hats off to the trail managers for the upkeep, the clear hazard warnings, and facilities along the trail.
I felt the narsacistic need to add a second post because I have a huge ego and anthropology background. Ecousin made a great point concerning the concept of "friendship" and how Rails to Trails fosters relationships. Anyone looking to improve relationships with family and friends should consider this trail as an activity that can result in higher quality of relationships.
For me the best part of the trip was communicating with three generations of people. I split my time between talking with the kids, the Gen-x-ers, the Baby-Boomers, and the circus that is my brain when I am not interacting with other people.
Ecousin made that point very clear. As you ride this trail, especially if you go as a large group, watch your pace. You can find out a child's deepest fear by riding along side them and simply asking questions. No need to sit down and have a "serious" talk. The distraction of the forest canopy and cadence of the ride is enough for those kids to release concerns they keep repressed, and for any parent this is a tool of health for the child as well as yourself.
Likewise, the older generation are fun to ride with. They give me the sense that things are going to be OK for my daughter and the other kids on the ride.
Rails to trails provides a venue for communication between generations of people.
Peace and Love, Carmenza
This trail is exemplary of why I love rails to trails. Beautiful grade, paved, no cars and much of the trail is though a tree covered corridor.
8-22-2015 we had planned to start the ride at Culp Creek believing we had 17 miles in front of us (The reality is the trail is 15.5). Our plan was to ride to Cottage Grove have a nice lunch and those who were inclined to ride back to the trial head of Culp Creek, with others staying in Cottage Grove or riding back to Campground.
There is automobile access all along the trail, which is nice because when you are on a trail without access for great distances (Say over 10 miles) I start getting nervous.
The ride west is slightly downhill, and very enjoyable. Our ride was with friends who are more interested in the experience than the ride. I joked we would stop and explore anything shiny. This pace doesn't get you from A to B the fastest, but provides a chance to get to know each other better.
This trail is in excellent shape and improvements would be hard to imagine until I came to a "Detour sign." Having been a former Locomotive Engineer one thing I loathe is "at grade" RR crossings. We were detouring around an underpass currently under construction for the path to pass peacefully under the road. It is beautiful!
What a great Trail 15.5 miles of pure Bliss
It has been more than 20 years since I last visited the drainage that carries a water supply to the small city of Cottage Grove. When I was in college the Row River was my motorcycle stomping ground. Wildwood Falls was my swimming hole and and a little known spot on a tributary creek to the Row was a great place to go skinny dipping.
Then you get a job, a wife, money, moves to other cities, etc, and you find it has been too long since you connected with the beauty of a Cascade foothills paradise.
Ecousins sister decided it had been too long since she spent time in the saddle, and organized a trip for her family, my family, and another to ride the Row river trail. She booked us at a large campground (Shwarz CG)just below Dorena lake Dam, and we were on board.
It should be known that this campground has a lot of rules. And a lot of patrolling. Alcohol is not allowed, so put your beverage of choice in a different container when out of sight of the ranger and you are good to go. Also, there are no electrical hook-ups for RV's and generator shut off hours are 10-6.
This was important to us because a couple of folks in our mix use CPAP machines and needed overnight power. They were approached by the ranger the first night, and explained their circumstance. They were allowed to stay, but the host called the police the next day, and they were forced to leave. For as nice as the park was, one would think they could go the extra mile and power up a few RV pads. I don't mind sleeping in a tent, but I am only 43. Older folks and folks with health concerns who RV camp should consider the RV park down the road. The bathrooms were immaculate, but closed from 5:30 to 6:15 am for cleaning so if you are an early riser keep this in mind.
We somehow got the first 9 people in our group out of the park by 8:30 am after a night of party and reunion and a hearty breakfast. We drove the bikes up to Culp Creek Trailhead where the pavement begins at the east end of this liquid smooth trail. The gentle, consistent railroad grade was perfect for 3 generations of riders to effortlessly roll the 15.7 miles down to Cottage Grove. As you pedal along past old timber industry relics and the worker housing that helped build our nation, a deep sense of how incredibly different the world is today than it was 100 years ago.
I wont get too descriptive of the visuals...you'll just have to ride it for yourself and decide for yourself how you feel about it. I personally love disintegration and dilapidation--watching nature take over the neglect of humanity.
My wife and kid had agreed to meet us down the trail, and a new friend, and his wife and kid had agreed to meet Ecousin down the trail a bit too. We managed to meet all of them. Amazing. Now we were 12 riders, and two support crew. We made it to Cottage Grove for a great lunch at Busters Main Street Cafe.
With full bellies we split up our group. Some stayed to shop in the beautiful downtown historic district, some of rode back up the trip to a famous covered bridge and then back to the camp. Ecousin, Dan and I kept rolling back to The upper trailhead. I felt a little bad about my contribution in this section because I started going a bit fast. I am a cadence guy, and my newly remodeled road bike was outperforming Dan's city bike and Ecousins mountain bike I did stop and wait a couple of times, but it just felt so good to be moving up the grade at the pace I was going.
Back at the car we loaded up and drove back to camp, but not without checking out another fascinating covered bridge. These things are marvels. If you ride this trail I highly recommend taking the time to investigate their construction.
Back at camp we regrouped and used three dutch ovens to make an interesting meal for everyone called "Milk Can Supper" Brats, potatoes, green beans, peppers, corn, onions, beer, garlic, salt...good. Finish with a slice of watermelon.
Responsible adults went to bed, but a few of us stayed up to party a while longer. Nothing like the glow of new friendships and euphoria of a fun ride complete. Ecousin and I struck out to the top of the dam around midnight and walked another 4 mile loop from there back to camp along the berm and Row River road. I woke up at 6 and got My families' bikes up on the racks.
In good time several sleepy children and spouses surfaced. We left the camp immaculate and descended to Cottage Grove for breakfast. I was tearing up a bit for the thought that another summer reunion has come and gone. Next year the kids will be bigger, the grandparents less agile, and I'll be...let's just hope I'll still be. Mid 40's are bittersweet.
After breakfast we parted ways. Ecousin to the north, and my family lit out for Gold Beach. We decided it was best to see the ocean and escape the smoke of a fiery Oregon summer for a couple of days.
I had considered taking my ten year old daughter up to Wildwood falls, but perhaps that can wait for another year. I don't want to give my wife a heart attack. My fearless daughter would want to cliff jump and swim under the waterfalls, and maybe she is still a little young for that.
A mellow walk on the beautiful driftwood littered beach was a sound choice, and nice cap to a fun weekend of riding with friends. We returned through the Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and made it back to Klamath Falls in time to get the car unpacked, before the sun went down.
Although it was a bit foggy and chilly , the scenery and trail condition were excellent. The reservoir was almost dry but the river was high and muddy. Spent the night at the boat ramp parking area in my RV and had it all to myself. I will definitely return when the weather is better next summer!
Started at Trail Head in Cottage Grove, after asking directions at Visitors Center. The person there didn't mention that very soon we would see a "Trail closed" sign. The trail beyond looked passable if we avoided the trench down the center and the debris scattered on the remaining "lanes." We ventured on, sometimes walking through heavy debris or soft areas. A worker told us that they're installing new electric and fiber optic lines from the dam. It looks like this work will take a few more weeks to complete (the sign gives completion date of April 30).
Just past the Currin Bridge, the trail is in excellent condition. Thank you, volunteers who clearly painted all areas raised by roots!
I recommend parking in one of the access lots past this bridge, and start your bike ride along the lake. We thought that lakeside was the prettiest part of the trail.
On our return trip, we caught Row Rd. before the Currin Bridge to bike into Cottage Grove.
This BLM page gives more info. and a good map.
I always try to get in a ride on the Row River Trail when on I-5. It's sort of a mini Destination Trail: Just off the freeway, good facilities, good trail, scenic, and there is camping at Schwartz Park below the dam. If you are into covered bridges, they have a number here, including one at the Mosby Creek Trailhead.
After frying in the afternoon heat on the Rogue River Greenway, I tried getting a ride in during the cool of the morning and then moving to the next night's stop during the afternoon. You can do this in the swing season. I suspect it would not work in high summer when competition for campsites is raging.
It worked this time. The trail head was the boat launch at Rat Creek on the lake. Head up trail in the cool. The fleece vest was a welcome addition. By the time I reached Dorena School the vest came off. From there chug uphill (a nice RR trail "uphill" - 8 - 10 mph) to the outhouse at trail's end at Clup Creek. Kick it around and come down that uphill bit at 14.7 - about 5 mph over the going up speed. Back to Rat Creek for a 15 mile up n down.
Showers at Schwartz Park and off to Eugene for the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System - a Must Do ride. It covers both side of the Willamette River and with five bridges, you can do a daisy chain ride and shift from one bank to the other at each bridge.
This season I am riding a trike instead of a bike. You can find all day comfort on an HPV Scorpion FS trike.
TrailBear and his trike
Riding in comfort.
I make sure to ride this trail about 3 times a year. (spring, summer and fall) I love looking at all the different terrains and covered bridges. If you continue on the road where the trail ends and then take a left at the fork you can ride to Wildwood Falls (about 2-3 miles). The park there had a picnic table and port-a-potty. There is a swimming hole and a pretty waterfall.
ROW RIVER TRAIL
COTTAGE GROVE, OREGON
The Row River Trail is a scenic ride set in the low timbered mountains around Cottage Grove, Oregon. It comes complete with a dam, a lake, a river and two covered bridges to investigate.
It is a well executed rails-to-trails conversion project some 16 miles long that runs from Cottage Grove, Oregon, up the Row River, climbs to Dorena Dam, runs along the shores of Dorena Lake and upstream to a former logging mill site at Culp Creek. The trail bed is smooth blacktop, eight feet wide, with a gravel horse path along side. The trail heads allow you to break the trail into segments as desired.
COTTAGE GROVE TO MOSBY CREEK TRAIL HEAD
This is a tour of the back yards and driveways of Cottage Grove. Heed those little YIELD triangles on the backs of the No Motorized Vehicles signs at the crossings. You may be crossing a driveway. You may be crossing a street. Go blazing along and you may become the hood ornament on a pickup. This section can be avoided unless you want some BTDT credits.
The trail starts in an industrial area. There is no trail head with dedicated parking. There is a sign, a pergola and two new shelters that do not appear in Google Earth and a bike trail heading out. From the pergola, the trail heads southeast to the Mosby Creek Trail Head. Much of it is shaded. There are occasional park benches. GPS: Cottage Grove trail end @ N43d 47.841’ x W123d 03.463’.
MOSBY CREEK TRAIL HEAD TO DORENA DAM TRAIL HEAD
Mosby Creek Trail Head is what we would like all trail heads to be: spacious, landscaped, lots of parking, picnic tables in the trees, water, toilets (vault), and a full time live-in Trail Host. It is a few hundred yards from the historic wooden covered bridge at Mosby Creek. Bike over for a look.
This trail head has the only water on the trail, so plan accordingly.
A nice Up and Down is to go to from Mosby Creek to the Dorena covered bridge on the Row River above the lake and back down.
From Mosby the trail heads out across meadows and through woods to climb up to Dorena Dam. The next stop is the Dorena Dam Trailhead (GPS: N43d 47.350’ x W122d 57.171’, gravel parking lot, vault toilet, bench, picnic table, view of water). A short climb up a gravel road leading off the trail cut takes you to the dam. Walk out and snap some pictures.
DORENA DAM TRAIL HEAD TO DORENA SCHOOL INFORMATION KIOSK
From the dam trail head you bike along the shore of the reservoir with very little gain in altitude. Much of the trail is shaded. There are picnic tables and benches spotted here and there. Sit down and enjoy the views. A nice place to stage out of is the Harms Park Trail Head (GPS: N43d 46.935’ x W122d 55.411’, paved parking, boat ramp, picnic tables, vault toilet, views of lake) on the lake shore at Rat Creek.
The trail breaks out of the forest (vault toilet here) and runs along the marshes at the upper end of the lake, then crosses over the corner of Bake Stewart Park (GPS: N43d 44.995’ x W122d 53.509’, trailhead facilities are further down the road, in the park.) and heads up the Row River Valley to end at the Culp Creek Trailhead (GPS: N43d 42.299’ x W122d 50.917’ parking, picnic table, vault toilet, no water).
This section traverses the pastures and back yards of rural Oregon. Dull. A logical point to stop is the Dorena School information kiosk (GPS: N43d 44.324 x W122d 53.509’). Head down the gravel drive, past the school and backtrack on the Row River Road until you see the Dorena covered bridge (GPS: N43d 44.324’ x W122d 52.720’ parking, vault toilet) at the “Y”. Check it out.
From here you can make a loop by using Shoreview Drive (not that many views) on the western side of the lake (shoulders appx. 24”), go back to the “Y” and head up the Row River Road you came in on to intersect the trail at Bake Stewart or return to Dorena School and catch the trail back from there.
PLANNING AND LOGISTICS
The Schwartz Park Campground (Corps of Engineers) is located on the banks of the Row River, a few hundred meters below the dam spillway (GPS: N43d 47.111’ x W122d 57.493’). It has flush toilets and hot showers and trailer hookups. It’s always nice to have a full service campground located about halfway along a rail trail.
Another nice full service campground is Baker Bay, over on the southern shore of the reservoir. It is run by the county. Full facilities and you can check out the waterfront sites on the web. They have pix posted.
You can check out pictures of the Row River Trail on my flickr page:
This is a fantastic and beautiful trail that goes from Cottage Grove out east along Row river and Dorena lake with beautiful views of both. I cycled one day heading east. Walked the next day heading west.
freshly paved trail
well marked path
benches and picnic tables at view spots
beautiful views all over
restrooms at regular intervals
There are 3 covered bridges near this path, I visited 2. These are a short distance from the main trail and worth seeing, although the maps are not very clear on where they are. It is well worth the little effort it takes to find them. The two I visited are are NO longer open to vehicular traffic but are open to the public and you can walk or ride into them. One was from the 40's and the other from the 20's.
There is a great car camp site just a mile away with good amenities and it is ADA accessible. Specifically, hot water showers, bathers well lit at night. You can car camp, RV, group camp. There are good sites right next to the river.
This was a mini vacation that refreshed us greatly. I highly recommend it.
"We live in Idaho and ride the Coeur d'Alene Trail a lot. The Row River Trail is almost as nice, which is saying a lot. No hard hills, just gentle ones. Overall a great ride for us."
"We got 34 miles round trip out of this one. this might be my favorite, stunning views of the lake. Peddaled into town, had lunch peddaled back to camp."
"Very pretty scenery and warm clean water to swim in during the summer.
Easy, (nearly flat) smooth paved trail.
"This is a fun and easy trail to walk pedal or ride horses on.
Plenty of parking restrooms etc along the way.
The water is clean and warm and the fish are a bighting.
Several overnight camping sights I might add.
There are many close by bike and swimming places to experience as well."
"This well maintained trail features great scenery. There are several covered bridges in the area. One is visible from trail. The others are worth riding off the trail to see. One note, if you ride in February like I did, the lake may be empty. "
The movie Stand By Me was filmed on this locaion.
"This is one of my husband and my favorite bike rides. We regularly drive for over an hour to ride it. If you want to add to the length you can ride on the road where the trail ends for a mile or two, take the left side of the fork and ride another mile or so to a small park where the Wildwood falls are."
"This is a wonderful trail. You can pick it up a block from the hotels in Cottage Grove. It faithfully follows the old railroad right-of-way, so while you are in a steady climb in many areas, it is a max of 2%, which is perfect for bikes. Once you hit Dorreen Lake the trail wraps around the lake with great views and some lake access. On your way you pass a couple of covered bridges on the highway.
The is the gold standard for how rails-to-trails should be done. There is also a trail in town. The map implies that it is a dedicated bike trail, but it is mostly just a bike lane. There is a nice section that runs from the fairgrounds, along a golf course and pops out near the Wal-Mart (close to the main trail). This section is all dedicated bike trail."
"You can now get onto the trail right in Cottage Grove and it connects directly to the trailhead you mention in your description. It is paved all the way, it adds 3 or 4 miles and is easier to find the trailhead in town."
Great bike trail. Paved & relativly flat. Low usage mid week.
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