Dorris Ranch – Willamalane Parks, Springfield

Springfield, Oregon, has a unique variety of parks, from developed playground to completely natural and everything in between.  Dorris Ranch is one of our favorite parks.  It’s a “living history” hazelnut orchard, a working farm since 1892.  The property was acquired by Willamalane, Springfield’s parks and recreation district, and all 308 acres were put into public use as a park and non-profit farm.

Dorris Ranch Living History Farm - Springfield, Oregon

Our family has visited Dorris Ranch many times over the years, and is a favorite because it’s such a unique park.  You can wander through the orchards endlessly, jog the paths in a loop, or visit the river for a picnic.  Visit during harvest season to watch workers harvest the nuts, or during the spring as they’re replacing trees affected by blight.  It’s a beautiful park that’s also connected to Willamalane’s new Middle Fork path that winds for 4 miles between the Willamette River and the city of Springfield.

This weekend, after surviving a few weeks of illness, we were eager to get out of the house, out of town, just OUT.  But we needed something close to town, stroller-friendly, and short enough that we could bail out and go back to the car if needed.  Dorris Ranch was just the place.  The river is a half-mile from the parking lot, so that was our goal.

Kids on a giant log at Dorris Ranch

This log near the parking lot was a must-climb. In the background, you can see parts of the Dorris Ranch farm…the old farmhouse which is currently off-limits, and a barn that’s now used for weddings and events.

Dorris Ranch trail through the hazelnut orchards

We started down the trail with two goals in mind…find our favorite “big tree” and see the Willamette River.

The Orchards

Hazelnut Orchards at Dorris Ranch

Teaching kids at Dorris Ranch park, Springfield, Or

As former foresters, we always take opportunities to teach our kids about forest ecosystems. While a hazelnut orchard isn’t exactly a forest, it’s still a great place to learn about insects, fungi, lichen, the food chain, and tree lore.

Fungus on a hazelnut tree at Dorris Ranch.

Our Big Tree

Every time we’ve ever visited Dorris Ranch, we wander through the orchards to skirt the edge.  The path there is easier for the stroller, it’s quiet, and best of all, there’s a Big Tree.  It’s a huge big leaf maple, and I think it’s been there since dinosaurs ate hazelnuts.  Maybe not quite that long.

Big Leaf Maple tree at Dorris Ranch

Finally, our Big Tree! This ancient tree is a big leaf maple, and has clearly been here since the Dorris family still ran their ranch. The tree is perfect for climbing, but it’s surrounded by stinging nettle so be careful!

After thoroughly exploring the big tree, we found the road again and headed for the river.  The road passes the farm’s old packing shed, outbuildings, and a tractor.  This is another fun stop for kids, and there’s a spigot for cooling off, filling water bottles, and letting dogs have a drink.

Old packing shed at Dorris Ranch

Willamette River

Finally, we reach the river.  We sat at the picnic table (a perfect spot for lunch) and watched the water, and a family in a canoe, float past.  It’s a serene spot, and after we’d all rested a bit, we headed back the way we came.

Willamette River at Dorris Ranch

Our hiking family waved and called out hellos to the canoeing family.

Wedding Venue

Country barn wedding venue at Dorris Ranch

Near the parking lot, we saw the barn was open as a group prepared for a wedding. We peeked inside and found it to be a quaint, lovely venue for a small wedding.

Dorris Ranch wedding venue

Dorris Ranch is free to visit, and I hope that you will.  It’s stroller-friendly and dog-friendly.  Perfect for families wanting a weekend hike or a nature trek.  There’s more to Dorris Ranch, too, including field trips, a living history village, a Native American plank house, and fur trapper’s cabin.  We’ve never explored any of that, so we need to go back soon!