Habitats within MPA include a river meadow and riparian forest along the Coast Fork of the Willamette River; Oregon white oak savanna; wet forests and a water gardens; low elevation valleys and slopes; and Douglas fir and incense cedar forests on the hillsides, representing many southern Willamette Valley ecosystems. In total, 67 families, 231 genera, and 339 species are identified on MPA’s published plant list. Seven miles of all-weather terrain trails with 23 bridges connecting them lead visitors through the stunning Arboretum’s acreage and these diverse ecological habitats. Visitors oft use several picnic areas and the larger White Oak Pavilion, all of which provide natural shelter in inclement weather.
Wildlife also thrives at the Arboretum; MPA has vigorous populations of deer, coyote, foxes, and many other small mammals. Bats are especially noticeable, hunting over the river and in other open areas. The water garden is home to some really special turtles, too: a population of endangered Western Pond Turtles. It also houses other sensitive species such as the Red-legged Frog, gophers, snakes, tree frogs, and lizards. A stroll through the water garden shows off the diversity of insect life and dragonflies, damselflies, cicada, grasshoppers, butterflies, and other beautiful bugs. Children in particular enjoy these spectacles of nature. The Arboretum is one of the most popular birding sites in the area, and hosts a huge array of migratory and resident songbirds and raptors.
Educational opportunities at MPA are aplenty; the Arboretum’s Education Program has been serving the city and county since 1981 – longer than any other outdoor environmental education program in the Eugene area. In addition to the Arboretum’s adult, family, and children’s education programs, the site is also used as an outdoor teaching facility by local institutions like the University of Oregon, Lane Community College, and the Eugene and Springfield school districts. Adults, children and students alike can take courses, camps and internships or discovery tours. Adult education classes include nature guide training and classes on botany, lichens, birding, gardening with native plants, identifying winter twigs, and mushrooming! Kids can attend an Outdoor Nature Camp during the summer, which includes inventive activities like nature-made crafts, wading in the river, campouts and recreational activities. Family workshops explore topics like bats, bugs, stargazing, and making walking sticks. For independent types, the Arboretum offers brochures that hikers can use on a self-guided tour of the trails.
Whether you’re headed to MLA for a day or a brief lunchtime respite, MLA is open with free admission from sunrise to sunset. Don’t forget to take along the following list: it’s a Top Five Attractions at MLA list for you to carry in addition to any maps or materials you receive on site upon entry. Do make sure you stop by and check out the following ten popular areas:
1. The Gardens
The Patricia M. Baker Memorial Wildflower Garden is a two-acre specialty garden in the River Meadow that was planted with 37 families, 70 genera and 112 species of trees, shrubs, ferns, perennials and annuals. All are adapted to mesic and riparian habitats, some are indigenous to the site, and others are native to other parts of the West. Here you’ll find Dogwood, mountain ash, vine maple, mock orange, serviceberry, spiraea, azalea, flowering currant, larkspur, columbine, Canadian bunchberry, violet, and many more.
2. Play in the Rain Day Event
Drawing over 1,000 attendees, the Mount Pisgah Arboretum hosts Eugene’s annual Play in the Rain Day. This free, fun, all-ages family event happens in November; participants discover how fun, easy, and rewarding it is to spend time outdoors in nature—in ALL kinds of weather! The Youth in Nature Partnership collaborates to bring youth into the outdoors: the day’s activities include tree-climbing, horses, nature crafts, hikes, hay rides, campfire cookery, a visit from Smokey Bear, native plants, fire by friction, archery and lots more! Needless to say, the tiny tykes have a blast at this event!
3. Wildflower Festival
This May event features extensive displays of Oregon’s native and naturalized flowering plant species. You don’t have to be plant-proficient to love it either! The festival is loaded with fun things to do for everyone in the family, and for anyone of any level of garden and flower capability. As many as 400 species of wildflowers are on display, from Anemones to Vancouveria! Collected and organized for attendees to get a close look, top botanists of the region are always on hand to answer questions; and for a closer look, guests are permitted to try out the on-site microscopes. The festival also includes great food, lively music, activities for kids, arts and crafts, and a wide selection of plants for sale! This is a truly epic event that tons of locals and outside Oregonians drive great lengths to attend.
4. Planted Areas
Planted areas, aside from The Gardens, include the entrance garden, which showcases 89 planted species of woody plants including 57 (mostly Asian) Rhododendron species and 13 native and introduced tree species including maples, oaks, magnolias, pines and Metasequoia.
5. The Arboretum Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is the meeting place for many of MPA’s walks and workshops, and serves as the base camp for the super popular Discovery Tours for elementary school classes. Located in the southwest corner of the parking lot, the Visitor Center features cool exhibits as well, ie, native amphibian and reptile terraria, microscopes for exploring seeds and bugs or looking up-close at feathers and snake skins, “touch me” exhibits, reference books, and a working viewable bee hive!
Whether you’re local to Eugene and frequent the park, or if you’re vacationing and enjoying the gorgeous Oregon seasons, take a look at MPA for a day trip or an afternoon. MPA is located at 34901 Frank Parrish Rd. For information on group tours or specific details on exhibits, seasonal events and more, call (541) 747-3817. For questions on education programs at the Arboretum and special bookings for weddings/parties/events, call (541) 747-1504.
Mount Pisgah Arboretum
34901 Frank Parrish Rd