8 hidden gems in Independence, Oregon
Home to just over 8,500 people, Independence, Oregon, is full of small-town charm. Situated beside the Willamette River, the historic town offers acres of recreational opportunities, a thriving food scene and one-of-a-kind family-owned businesses.
1. Biker and Boater Campground
After a long day of riding the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway or boating down the river, pitch a tent at Riverview Park. The park has a campground that is designed exclusively for bikers and boaters. Located just one block from the downtown district, the camping area has picnic tables, bike racks, a cold shower, water tap, bike repair station and Wi-Fi. A camp site costs $10 per night.
2. Buena Vista Ferry
Connecting Marion and Polk counties, the Buena Vista Ferry is one of the oldest continuously operated ferries in Oregon. Located just south of Independence, it operates year-round and offers transportation across the river to pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. The ferry is also a stop on the Buena Vista Cycling Route, which winds through Salem, Rickreall, Monmouth and Independence.
3. Hop Capital of the World
From the 1890s to the 1940s, Independence was known as the “Hop Capital of the World.” Those hop fields are now used by Rogue Ales & Spirits at its Independence farm. Many of Rogue’s ingredients are grown and harvested at the farm, including hops, Marionberries and jalapenos. Learn about the area’s history at the town’s Heritage Museum and then visit the farm for a tour and tasting.
4. Mt. Fir Park Inspiration Gardens
Tucked away in a small neighborhood, the Inspiration Gardens at Mt. Fir Park boasts nearly two dozen different gardens. The seven-acre park has a children’s garden, bamboo garden and medicinal plant garden. Originally part of the Mt. Fir Lumber Mill, the park is now a tranquil location to immerse yourself in the outdoors and learn about different plants.
5. Second Chance Books
In business since 1993, Second Chance Books is a bookworm’s paradise. From fiction to non-fiction, it’s easy to lose track of time as you explore the bookstore’s extensive collection of used books. The store sells paperbacks, hardbacks and audio books at discounted prices.
6. Special Events
During the summer months, it’s not uncommon to come across a parade or festival in Independence. Western Days is one of the most popular Fourth of July events in the Willamette Valley. The four-day festival features a parade, fireworks, entertainers and children’s activities. The River’s Edge Summer Series fills Riverview Park Amphitheater on Thursday and Friday nights in July and August. Head to the amphitheater to enjoy free comedy shows, family movies and concerts. The Independence Hop and Heritage Festival is modeled after an event that started in the early 1930s. Formerly known as the Hop Fiesta, the celebration marks the end of the hop harvest. Today, the festival celebrates the town’s history with hot air balloons, live music and beer, of course.
7. Thriving Food Scene
Independence is home to a handful of great eateries. The Three Legged Dog Public House serves up a wide variety of flavors, from classic burgers to peppered pork belly. The pub uses local ingredients and even makes its own cherry chipotle ketchup. If you’re looking for a unique atmosphere, head to the Pink House Café for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Located inside a home from the 1870s, diners are seated throughout the two-story residence, which has appropriately been painted pink. Grab a cup of coffee, indulge in a pastry or take home a loaf of your favorite bread at Ovenbird Bakery. The bread is baked fresh every morning.
8. Willamette River Trail
The Willamette River Trail is a 5K soft-surface trail loop that connects Riverview Park to the North Riverfront Ballfield Complex. Great for runners and walkers, the trail passes in and out of the Willamette River’s riparian zone and passes the Independence Dog Park. It also offers great opportunities for birdwatching and nature viewing.
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