Pringle Creek Tour

History, nature and workout

By Patrick Johnson

There is visiting the museums, restaurants, art galleries and tourist attractions of a place while on vacation, and then there is getting to know someplace.

Salem is no different, with many different activities from touring the state capitol building to riding on the Riverfront Carousel, to taking tours in wine country, there is much to do and see. But to get a real sense of what Salem truly has to offer, all you need to do is put on a comfortable pair of shoes.

“People don’t realize that we have a natural habitat right in downtown,” says Virginia Green, one of the volunteers of the Salem Heritage Network, a group that promotes the history and natural areas of Salem. “From downtown you can see some great natural settings and learn a lot of history about not just Salem, but the Willamette Valley.”

Green has set up six different walking tours, the longest being of Pringle Creek and Sheldon Ditch right in downtown Salem.

While guided tours are reserved for larger groups, Green and her organization have set up several maps and documents to help you enjoy the Salem downtown area with a self-guided tour at your own pace.

“In my six tours you will see three historic districts and the major cultural heritage sites in the Salem area,” Green says. “From Bush Park, A.C. Gilberts and Reed Opera House, there is a lot of Salem history and cultures on these walks.”

The Pringle Creek tour takes you from The Grand Hotel – one of the newer hotels in Salem with ample parking – to the Civic Center Park and Bush Pasture Park and around Salem Hospital.

Pringle Creek TourThe self-guided script for the Pringle Creek walk is rife with information about the architecture, history and natural resources of the areas. The script is about six pages long, and if you want a preview of the trip, they also have a slide show of the walk online – so you can take a look beforehand if you are afraid of getting lost.
“We are trying to make this as easy as possible for people to learn about our area, I see myself as an educator,” she said.

There are several parts of the trip that are unique. The trail wanders around several man-made urban ponds and a suspension bridge under Liberty Street crosses Pringle Creek and gives you a not normally seen perspective.

In the Bush Pasture Park section of the 2.8 mile walk, the creek breaks away from the buildings and streets and can be seen in its natural setting, with ducks, squirrels and other wildlife. The park is also an excellent place to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch while you watch the locals play Frisbee, baseball or just play in the park.

While there aren’t many places to stop and buy lunch or a coffee on this walk, on many of the other walks in the series they are close to shops and other amenities downtown.

The beauty of the walks is they can be taken as easy strolls where you focus on the script Green and her group have created, or you can follow the map and briskly walk, jog or run around the area – a great way to get a workout and see a new location.

This walk through urban parks offers different experiences according to the season with  wildflowers bloom in spring; lush tree canopies along the cool creeks in the summer, the many vibrant colors of fall and the bare trees and unexpected views in the winter.

About the walk: Pringle Creek and Sheldon Ditch walk takes a route that is 2.8 miles long and starts from downtown Salem and winds through several of the parks and historic areas of the city. It literally has something for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, from Oregon birds, to nice park settings, to unique architectures of bridges and buildings. The walk also goes through the several of the historic districts of Salem, so if you take a script with you there are many lessons to be learned about how the area developed.

What to bring: It’s Oregon and it’s outdoors. Make sure you bring weather appropriate clothing, comfortable walking shoes and water. While 2.8 miles doesn’t have a lot of difficult hills, there are one or two stair cases along the way – but this walk can be navigated by bike, wheelchair or even stroller. To get the most out of the walk, make sure to print off the self-guided tour script at where you can also find more history about Salem. There are many picturesque settings, so bring that digital camera for some wonderful shots of Oregon no matter what time of year you visit.

Season: You can take the walk year round – depending on your tolerance for being in the weather. If you don’t mind getting wet or cold, this tour can be taken any time. I went on the tour during a crispy February day between rain showers and it was very pleasant and informative.

Getting there:

Traveling from the North:
Take I-5 South to Mission St./Hwy. 22, Exit #253. Turn right onto Mission. Proceed on Mission to Liberty St. SE (approximately 2.5 miles). Turn right on Liberty St. SE . Grand Hotel in Salem is located at 201 Liberty St. SE

Traveling from the South:
Take I-5 North to Mission St./Hwy. 22, Exit #253. Turn left onto Mission. Proceed on Mission to Liberty St. SE (approximately 2.5 miles). Turn right on Liberty St. SE. Grand Hotel in Salem is located at 201 Liberty St. SE.

Tips: If you aren’t lucky enough to have a group to get a guided tour, make sure to visit the Salem Heritage Network’s blog to look at the tours through a picture slideshow. It will help give you landmarks for when you are on the trails.  In addition, The Grand Hotel in Salem also has handouts of maps and the scripts at the front desk that you can take to help you on your way. Again, comfortable shoes, water and weather-appropriate clothing are key to enjoying these wonderful walks.

History: Evergreen International Aviation founder, Delford M. Smith, and his son Michael King Smith, collected vintage warbirds and began the process of creating a world class aviation museum in Oregon and incorporated the museum in 1991. They strive to create a museum that would keep the inspiring stories of early aviators alive while encouraging other visionaries to pursue their dreams.

Story by Patrick Johnson, a free-lance writer based in Canby, OR.