North Riverfront Park is a boater’s paradise.
Located in Independence, Oregon, North Riverfront Park’s boat ramp attracts visitors looking for easy recreational boating access to the Willamette River, phenomenal angling opportunities, as well as the public recreators who want to picnic, walk the park’s trails or play on the soccer fields. The nearby sloughs and backwater areas are popular fishing sites for salmon, steelhead, and bass. Prior to 2012, the site was undeveloped; now, it’s a recreational hub in the Willamette Valley and a place of pride for Independence.
“The city approached us when they were thinking about buying the property and building not only a boat ramp but soccer fields and apartments,” said Janine Belleque, the Boating Facilities Manager for the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB). “We thought it was a great idea. it would expand access to the river and turn the site into a neighborhood park.”
Before the construction of the boat ramp at North Riverfront Park, there was a ramp located in the middle of the city. A flood in 1996 changed the river, depositing a large gravel bar at the ramp which made it great for paddlers but extremely difficult for motorized boaters. The city decided to look for other options. The North Riverfront boat ramp and park were completed in 2014, and has become a place to live, work, and recreate.
“People were extremely excited,” Belleque said. “Paddlers love the easy access at the old site and motorized boaters appreciate the new boat ramp. The community embraces all recreational boating. The city really worked hard and did a fantastic job with what was a multimillion-dollar development project.”
The boat ramp was partially funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) with Sport Fish Restoration grant funds from the boating access sub-program. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) granted the federal funds and OSMB granted the state boater funds to the city. The collaboration between the OSMB and the ODFW, and in this case, the city of Independence and the Service, is unique and productive, and an exceptional example of local, state, and federal cooperation.
“The collaboration between all agencies is really powerful,” said Service grant manager Paul Hayduk. “We each have a unique role to navigate the permitting processes, leverage funding and ultimately providing recreational boating access to the public.”
Boat ramp access at this site is free, which helps make it accessible to people in smaller, local communities where wages are lower on average. The boat ramp is also a regional destination with the next closest ramp being 10 river miles away in Salem. Approximately 60,000 boaters recreate between Salem and Corvallis every year, and North Riverfront Park is both central and easy to access.
“We get so much positive feedback,” Belleque said. “Boaters always ask, ‘can you replicate what you have here at this other location?’ People love that paddlers and motorized boaters don’t need to compete, the great fishing, and the other recreational opportunities. It’s been a win-win.”