Thurston Hills Natural Area

Thurston Hills Natural Area Springfield Oregon
A mountain biker washes his bike at Thurston Hills Natural Area.

Mountain bikers can wash their bikes before and after their rides to help minimize the spread of invasive species. The trails are expected to open to mountain bikes in the spring.

Now Open!

Willamalane has built a trailhead and initial trail system at this new 665-acre natural area. The 1.9-mile North Access Trail features a compacted gravel surface. The 1.2-mile Spine Trail continues along the ridgeline to a gravel road at the south end of the property.

Willamalane is also working with local mountain biking club the Disciples of Dirt to construct a 1.5-mile downhill trail exclusive to mountain bikers. That trail is scheduled to open in spring 2018. Until that time, mountain bike use of the trails is discouraged.

Future phases of the trail system could include connections to neighboring Bureau of Land Management property.



Natural Habitats and Restoration at Thurston Hills

This unique site is home to a variety of habitats including conifer and mixed forest, oak woodlands, grasslands (oak savannas and prairie habitats), and cliffs, rocky outcrops and talus. The habitats are home to a multitude of plant and animal species including nine species that are listed in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species of particular interest and priority for conservation. Western bluebird and Lewis’ woodpecker are two species listed in the Oregon Conservation Strategy that are found at the site and are most dependent on oak prairie and oak woodland habitats. Historically the woodlands found at Thurston Hills Natural Area would have been much more open in their understory allowing the Lewis’ woodpecker to easily forage for acorns on the ground.

Over the past century, fire exclusion has allowed native and non-native vegetation including conifers to encroach into oak woodland and prairies. Over time conifers in particular are able to grow in the shade of the oak until they overtop the oak and outcompete them for sunlight and other important resources reducing key habitat for species like the acorn woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatch and western grey squirrel. Currently less than 5% of the historic acreage of oak woodland and 1% of prairie habitats remain in the Willamette Valley (Oregon Conservation Strategy, 2016).

To address this degraded habitat condition Willamalane Park and Recreation District and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council will be releasing oak trees by thinning out the majority of undesirable trees. The result will be a much more open woodland that will allow the Oregon white oak to receive sufficient sunlight to mature with full open grown canopies. In the prairie we will be removing invasive species and encroaching woody vegetation to retain an open prairie condition dominated by grasses and forbs.

In addition, Willamalane will be undertaking a fuels reduction project that aims to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire on the site. Starting this March look for crews who will be removing overgrown native and non-native vegetation in the understory in addition to dense shrubs and some trees along the main access road into the site.

This work will help reduce fire risk and will create a significant fire break along the access road and across the property in addition to improving access to the site for emergency responders. This work will be implemented across 490 acres in small phases over the next five years.

These projects may impact trails and road usage while heavy equipment and crews are working on the site. Please stay tuned to the kiosks and the website for any trail closures and keep your eyes open for related trail signage. Enjoy this wonderful natural area!

infographic about the timeline of thurston hills natural area restoration

Novedades sobre el parque

La zona natural de Thurston Hills, un parque de 665 acres para caminar y andar en bicicleta, ya está abierto.

Los senderos más recientes, en el nuevo punto de partida en el McKenzie Highway y la calle 75. El sendero incluye un área de estacionamiento, baños, una estación de lavado de bicicletas y un puesto de información que lo ayudará a transitar su aventura.

Nuestros primeros dos senderos establecidos son el sendero de acceso al norte, de 1.9 millas, y el sendero central, de 1.2 millas. Se encontrará con hermosas vistas del bosque y un ascenso empinado cuando cruce las crestas rocosas.

La zona natural de Thurston Hills está formada de diversos hábitats, como una sabana de roble, peñascos rocosos, manantiales y bosques. Es hogar de 33 especies vegetales y 38 especies animales.

Esta gran área recreativa seguramente será un interesante centro de actividades para senderistas y ciclistas de montaña. Hasta ahora, más de 60 voluntarios han ofrecido 600 horas de su tiempo al esfuerzo.

Willamalane planea construir eventualmente varias millas más de sendero— incluyendo un sendero cuesta abajo solo para ciclismo de montaña.

Thurston Hills Natural Area map Springfield