West side of Jordan Road
I was in Arlington in August last year to drop off my sister at a meetup point with our mom so the two of them could go on a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. I did some research ahead of time about parks in the area so I could make a fun little day trip out of the drive for myself as well.
I ended up visiting the two area parks with river frontage that looked to be the most accessible from available online info.
The reason I waited so long to post a preview is that neither park ended up exciting me that much, and I’ve had plenty of other material for the blog in the meantime. But after a summer of rarely going out due to a lack of ambition combined with weeks of heat and wildfire smoke, I don’t have any new Seattle park previews ready to go at the moment.
The first park was Haller Park, which is located right in the town Arlington. It’s a fairly typical small town city park with swings, play structures, and picnic facilities. The neatest feature of the park is some swinging benches with a view of the river and old bridge.
Access to the water is from next to the boat launch and the shoreline didn’t look very inviting when I was there. But a lot of townspeople do use the park to play in the river, especially when it’s low enough to wade out to the gravel bar.
The park also serves as an access point for two lengthy trails, the Eagle and Centennial Trails.
Unless you specifically wish to go on the trails, or you’re driving through the area and are looking for a place to stop and eat a packed lunch and stretch your legs, Haller Park doesn’t warrant a special visit from distant areas.
River Meadows is a large Snohomish County park located about five miles from downtown Arlington on the Stillaguamish River. The park offers trails, camping, and picnic facilities. The most notable feature is the absolutely gargantuan fields to play in, thus the name, River Meadows. (The park was a farm in its previous life.)
The first section of the park you come to on the park road is the area around the old house, which I believe is now home to a caretaker. There are some lovely old trees with ferns growing on the branches, and a few pieces of old farm machinery.
The machinery could be of special interest to photographers. I admit I didn’t even attempt anything artistic with my camera because the light was harsh and I was feeling a bit hot and cranky since it was the middle of a mostly cloudless day in early August.
The next area of interest along the park road is the rental yurts. If you’d like to go camping, but don’t want to do the whole tent and sleeping on the ground thing, this can be a good way to go.
The first yurt is the ADA yurt, which is a great option for those with limited mobility who still want to enjoy an outdoor experience. The ADA yurt has a dedicated parking space right next to the yurt and a level entrance, so unloading gear is as easy as possible. The bathroom building is about 50 feet away, across the paved road.
For most of the rest of the yurts you park in the area next to the bathroom building and walk down a paved path. Handcarts are provided at the parking area to make hauling gear and food supplies to the yurts easier. A couple of the yurts are on the edge of the low hill with a view out over the meadows and river from their decks.
After you pass the yurt area the park road finishes winding down the hill and you come out into the open area of the main section of the park near the river. Two enormous flat fields stretch out to either side of the road.
When you get close to the river the road comes to a T junction. Just ahead and to the right is the bathhouse, which serves both the camping and picnic areas.
If you turn left here you enter the campground. The campsites on the river side are small, with lots of bushes blocking views of the river. For several of them you just park along the road next to the campsite. Sites on the meadow side aren’t really any bigger, but feel much roomier because the meadow serves as a backyard.
The campsites at River Meadows are not very attractive and are close together, providing no privacy. The tent sites are especially unappealing. If you’re looking for a weekend nature retreat this isn’t it. However, if you need a place to park a trailer overnight while traveling or on a fishing trip this might be a convenient spot.
If you turn right at the T you enter the large picnic area. There are two or three shelters I think, and several tables scattered around out in the open.
The major reason I wanted to visit River Meadows is because it looked like the picnic area was right on the river. There just aren’t any good creeks or rivers in Seattle and sometimes I pine for that kind of water. But this is a good example of how satellite map views can be misleading.
The picnic area is on top of a steep riverbank and the river comes up right under the bank. What this means is, not only is there no water access because it’s a straight drop down, you can’t even see much of the river from the picnic area.
You have to walk out near the edge to see much of anything. You also need to be careful out there because it’s not completely clear how stable the edge is.
River access in the park is via two trails. One is south of the campsites and one is north of the picnic section. Since I didn’t even bother locating either trail, let alone walk down them, I can’t comment on what it’s like on the shore, but the park’s website mentions swimming and fishing. The river isn’t particularly scenic through this section.
The park also has a fairly extensive trail system. I didn’t look into that at all while there, but my guess is there might be some good birding and if you enjoy walks in the woods that’s a reason to visit the park.
To sum up my assessment of River Meadows County Park, it’s not a particularly interesting park if you’re looking for a special place to go on a day trip, especially if you’re looking for great scenery or easy river access. There are better choices about the same distance or closer to Seattle. However, the yurts are worth looking into, especially if you have a disability.
I think the park does make a good venue for events like church picnics or family reunions where you want to set up a lot of activities for large groups of people. The available space for Frisbee, badminton, volleyball, softball, flag football, a croquet course, egg tosses, and three-legged races is almost endless. (Be sure to bring your own nets and bases.)
Festival of the River and Pow Wow
Every August the Stillaguamish Tribe hosts the Festival of the River and Pow Wow at River Meadows.
The festival includes traditional dancing, education about salmon and conservation of river habitat, logging demonstrations, food vendors, children’s activities, live music, and more. Entrance to the festival is free, parking is $10 per vehicle. (Link below.)
Things to Know
Day Use 7am – Dusk
Picnic tables by the yurts, in campsites, and in the picnic area.
I didn’t notice any benches.
One bathroom building in the yurt area next to the parking lot.
One bathroom in between the campground and picnic area.
There are places provided for parking along the park road for visitors who want to walk the trails.
Small parking lot for yurt renters.
Parking at campsites.
Parking for the picnic area is along the road for the entire length of that section.
I’m not sure where the festival parking is located.
I was here in the middle of the day on a Tuesday in early August and the only other person I saw the entire time was one man in a campsite. There were a total of three trailers in the campground and I saw a couple cars parked just off the road, presumably for people out on the trails.
It’s impossible for me to even guess how much use the park gets on summer evenings and weekends, though I assume families in the area enjoy the trails and picnicking here. My guess is organizations of various types also hold large group events here.
If you’re looking for a place in the Arlington area to be all alone on a summer weekday then this seems to fit the bill.
From I-5 take SR530 east through Arlington.
The highway turns north and crosses the river. A short distance after that turn right onto Arlington Heights road and follow it about two miles.
At a Y bear right onto Jordan Road.
Follow Jordan Road approximately three miles to the park entrance on your right.
River Meadows County Park website (includes maps of trails and park)