You guys. Let's talk about Dorris Ranch. Ahhh, dear old Dorris. If I could marry a physical place, I would marry Dorris Ranch. It is very nearly the perfect place. Anywho, here's how my family likes to enjoy dear old Dorris (henceforth known as DOD). I hope you and your family head out there soon and check it out, because it's the best. For reals.
DOD is in Springfield, right down Pioneer Parkway, off the Springfield City Center exit. Now before you quit reading because you live way out in the South hills of Eugene or whatever and decide that DOD is way too far away to visit, let me just tell you that you're wrong. So very wrong. It is well worth every single minute spent in the car.
When you get there, the driveway splits three ways. Okay hold on. I am going to WAY overexplain this for all of the people out there who are like me and who really really really like details. If you're more of an "explore it on your own" type, feel free to skip this next 35 paragraphs. Hopefully, however, there is someone out there who is like me and will find the nitty gritty specifics helpful. Let's forge on!
See this map? See the gate at the top? That's where you start at DOD. See how the road splits three ways? Oh the options! How does one decide? Okay, here we go.
The paved road to the left (your left when you've arrived at the park, your right when you're looking at this map) leads to a brand new (last year I think) path that is paved. On the map, it's the yellow "paved multi-use path". There are bathrooms and a water fountain and a few benches in the parking lot area. Head down the "paved multi-use path" and you'll hit the Living History Village right away.
The buildings aren't open, but they're fun to check out. Last fall, DOD held a really fun event where they had the buildings open to explore as well as people in period dress there to show artifacts and answer questions. Super fun! Keep going and you'll hit a beautiful forest - this is my son's favorite part of DOD. He loves how tall the trees are, and how dark and quiet it is. We love to talk about which animals are hiding or napping in the trees, and how they're camouflaged. Keep on trucking and you'll reach the river. It's too far away (and blocked off by a fence) at this point to get down to the water, but the view is lovely.
I haven't ever gone farther than about where the river curves and the map cuts off, so I can't attest to what's just around the river bend (anyone catch that reference?) so let me know if you know! FYI, my four year old can ride his bike all the way down to the river and back with no problem. I have zero idea how far that is - there are distance markers but I never pay attention. I also can't figure it out using the map, because my babies used up all my brain cells when I was pregnant. So...there you go.
One note about the "paved multi-use path": Some of the path has a yellow line painted in the middle, like a real road. I really wish the line were on the entire path, and I'm not sure why it's not (anyone?) It is a great place to teach your littles about basic traffic concepts like lanes, passing, and road courtesy. My kiddo loves to yell "passing on your left!"
The gravel road to the right (okay so that's your right when you're at the park, your left when you're looking at this map) leads to a gravel path that winds through filbert orchards. On the map, it's the light grey "road". Just a little distance distance from the parking lot is a very cool barn (it's available to rent and has the most beautiful twinkly lights hanging inside!) as well as a neat old nut harvesting machine, picnic tables, and a port-a-potty. Keep walking and you'll hit the orchards. The orchards are a fantastic place to let littles play - they are just so visibly cool! The rows upon rows of matching trees - so fun. On the map, there's a place labeled "Pump House and Packing Shed". These are some random buildings (you can't go in them) as well as another port-a-potty. There is also another picnic table and an awesome old tractor to let the littles explore. If you've got pretty short legs with you, I might recommend turning around now and heading back to the car. It's not a long walk TO the "tractor spot" (that's what we call it, super creative, I know. You're welcome.) but you do need to walk all the way BACK. :) If you've got longer legs, you're about halfway to the river, and it is truly a beautiful walk. Keep going and you can toss rocks and sticks in the water after you scramble down the bank. Gorgeous. For reference, this weekend my four year old walked the entire way to the river and back without a problem after he rode his bike all the way to the river on the paved path. You can do it!
There are also lots of small gravel trails, marked as the white "trails" on the map. We've never really checked those out, but we should!
So last weekend here's what we did: We started on the "paved multi-use path", rode bikes/walked to the river and back, and then headed back to the car, which we had parked in the gravel lot. We threw the bike in the car, grabbed our picnic basket, and walked down to the picnic tables near the barn. After we ate, my husband threw the basket back in the car and we headed down the gravel "road". We stopped at every tractor and allowed for lots of time to check out bugs/logs/leaves/puddles. We walked all the way to the river, threw rocks in, and walked back to the car. From arrival to departure, we spent 3 and 1/2 hours at DOD. Wonderful family time for exploration, conversation, enjoying the outdoors, and getting dirty!
Parking: plenty of free parking
Restrooms: There are flush toilets near the paved parking lot, and several port-a-potties in various spots up and down the gravel path.
Resting/Nursing Spots: a few benches and picnic tables scattered around
Time Frame: At least an hour - you could easily occupy your littles for half a day at DOD!