Camas Bloom among Oaks & Madrones in Nature Conservancy Reserve
This small natural area preserves rare Willamette Valley oak savanna and numerous wildflowers that thrive in the rocky, pool studded property.
The thin soils and exposed rocks of Camassia form a distinctive habitat. Water held in the rocks forms spring pools and wetlands where 300 species of plants and wildflowers thrive below the gnarly oaks and flowering madrones.
Wildflowers, Birds & Wildlife
Among the flowers found here is the rare white rock larkspur (Delphinium leucophaeum), found in only a few places in the world.
Other flowers include: common camas (Camassia quamash), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), western trillium (trillium ovatum), western saxifrage (Saxifraga occidentalis), Oregon fawn liliy (Erythronium oregonum), and wild ginger (Asarum caudatum).
A flower to beware of is the poisonous white death camas. While similar to the property’s namesake blue camas, the death camas is distinctively white. It does not belong to the camassia family. Native Americans marked these poisonous plants when they were in bloom in spring to avoid mistaking them for the blue camas.
Birds abound here too. Among those frequently seen are wood duck, California quail, hairy woodpecker, western bluebird, osprey, Anna’s hummingbird, and many common songbirds.
Wildlife that can be spotted here includes the black-tailed deer, red fox, Pacific tree frog, rough-skinned newt, and Western gray squirrel.
Protecting Sensitive Habitat
The Nature Conservancy is an International Nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals, and habitats. Since its founding in 1951, the conservancy has protected nearly 117 million acres around the world.
Following are rules that visitors are asked to follow when visiting this The Nature Conservancy property:
- Stay on the trails to avoid trampling sensitive habitats.
- Collecting flowers, plants, or insects is prohibited.
- Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
- No hunting, camping, or campfires.
- Any trash brought in must be carried out.
Direction to Camassia
From Portland, Camassia can be reached by driving south on Highway 43 (SW Macadam Avenue) to West Linn. After passing under the highway and just before the gas station, turn uphill onto Willamette Falls Drive. Willamette Falls Drive makes a 90 degree turn to the left after one block. Continue on Willamette Falls Road for a one-quarter mile and veer right on Sunset Avenue. Take the first right onto Walnut Street, ending at the preserve. There is a small parking area at the entrance.
A few cautions: wildflowers are at the height of blooming in spring, but trails can also be muddy at this time. Boardwalks that cross wetlands can also be slippery. Care should be taken at this time of year to avoid accidents.
Poison oak grows in profusion here. Its reddish-green leaves divided into threes can cause a severe rash if touched. Visitors should avoid letting their clothing touch poison oak, as well, as even secondary contact can cause a rash.
Further information is available through the Camassia Preserve brochure.
Camassia is named for the blue camas flowers that dominate the preserve located in the town of West Linn, about 12 miles south of Portland.
At 26 acres, Camassia is among the smallest of The Nature Conservancy properties, but its size belies its value.
Prairies of Oregon white oak and madrone trees, once common in the Willamette Valley of Western Oregon, have been largely replaced by agriculture and development. At Camassia, this oak-madrone woodland is being preserved and restored by the Conservancy, along with the carpet of camas and other wildflowers.
The blue camas lily was also once plentiful in the Willamette Valley and provided an important food source for Pacific Northwest Native Americans.
Land Shaped by Ancient Floods
Camassia occupies a basalt bluff above the Willamette River. It was shaped by ancient floods that charged down the Columbia River Gorge and inundated much of the Willamette Valley 12,000 to 19,000 years ago. The floods scoured the rocks, washing the soil further down into the valley. Huge granite boulders were left among the rocks by the rushing waters.