Oxbow Park is not easy to love in the summer. It’s crowded and full of litter, lots of parties and stuff. An old friend worked there one summer and had many stories to tell of cleaning up sundry body fluids and having guns pulled on her over the $5 parking fee.
But Oxbow Park the rest of the year is a jewel. I feel a deep connection to the Sandy River. For about twenty years I’ve been learning about it, collecting data from it, teaching about it, and now I bring my kids here. I’ve lived five feet away from it, up a cliff from it, across a bridge from it. I have watched otters play there, elk cross, beavers build, and salmon spawn. People are shaped by rivers and the Sandy River continues to do that for me.
We’ve been going to Oxbow Park again recently. The water is so low that we’ve figured out a great path to a private beach, crossing through a dry creek bed that is usually running. Actually, after the last few days of rain I wonder if it’s still dry. We watched salmon return and found tracks from deer, raccoon, and Great Blue Heron.
But mostly, the kids just dig. They make rivers, pretend to make birthday cakes with leaves and stuff they’ve collected, and paint each other’s faces in the silt. They feel so comfortable in the forest that they’ve started to develop things they love and look forward to. When Fern finds certain things she yells, “Yes!” like she’s seeing an old friend. Max doesn’t sit still for much but he will sit and dig in the sand, throw things in the water, or stomp in mud for many hours.
It’s not always easy to get everyone out the door to go to the forest. I have to bring many changes of shoes and clothes, enough layers, first aid kit, snacks, water, cash for the parking fee, camera, etc. I have to motivate them even if it’s cold or they’d rather be doing anything else. Sometimes I have to carry Max out screaming at the end because he’s so exhausted. But it’s always worth it. Every time.