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I’m spoiled. Having grown up here in Oregon, it wasn’t until my family moved away for five years that I came to appreciate what a rich oasis it truly is– and why my grandparents flocked here during the 1930’s Dust Bowl with dreams of prosperity as farmers. The thick, insulating blanket of low-lying clouds keeps the climate moderate year-round and the landscape famously verdant and lush.

I’ve frequented treasured Oregon landmark Silver Falls State Park (or as we old-timer locals call it, “Silver Creek Falls”) my whole life… I’ve seen each of the baker’s dozen waterfalls, hiked miles of the same paths in every season, and celebrated birthdays and family reunions within it’s metes. Since returning to Oregon this spring we’ve visited again several times, and I think I can safely say it’s one of my very favorite places.

Swoony throwbacks: 

Quite pregnant with Center Sister, overdue and eager to commence labor, Husband and I hiked the forest trails with toddler Firstborn mere days before her arrival, and again a week after her birth, tiny newborn swaddled against me.

Whether a day-tripper or a weekend camper, a local looking to beat the heat or an out of state tourist, it’s a misty, mossy rainforest reminiscent of Star Wars planet Endor– you almost expect to encounter an Ewok along the shady fern-laden trails.

The historic buildings tend to resemble gingerbread houses.

The park boasts the best swimming hole for miles– a sedate, cordoned-off portion of Silver Creek with a broad, man-made beach. It’s shallow and safe, a far cry from the fast-moving rivers that slice through the Willamette Valley.

I would have deemed myself an expert on the area, but wouldn’t you know that my much older sister recently introduced me to a new hidden treasure within the park? While there’s a traditional playground in the day use area near the swimming hole, my new favorite is on a whole ‘nother level– a NATURE PLAY AREA. Off the beaten path near the group camping site, it’s an interactive, educational play area set along an easy meandering forest trail.

Kids young & old weave among the tangle of towering trees to experience three “stations” representing the habitats of local wildlife– namely birds, bears, and cougar. Each stop boasts different uses of the natural materials to create a non-invasive outdoor oasis that tells a story to kids as they play.

 

Bird habitat

Bear habitat

 

 

Cougar habitat

THIS HOMESCHOOL MAMA GEEKED RIGHT OUT. Looove me some sneaky kinesthetic learning, we will most definitely be back.

So here’s my new Silver Falls tagline: Come for the waterfalls & camping, stay for the floatlife and the playground.

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