Take the back roads to Bethel Heights and ride the Wheatland Ferry
- Posted on September 05 2011, 8:40 pm
- Posted by Patd
Idyllic river crossing
Call ahead! sometimes closed for repairs or high water
"Fragrant Fergie's" is worth a stop
Farmstands along the way offer all the bounty of Willamette Valley farm country
Historic Zena Church
Hop fields ready to harvest in early September, lining the road to the Wheatland Ferry
October offers fresh apple cider and pumpkins along the road to Bethel Heights.
Welcome to Bethel Heights!
Any time is a good time to leave the freeway behind and take the scenic route from Portland to Bethel Heights. Back roads with little traffic take you through the heart of our lush Willamette Valley farm country with its amazing diversity of crops, past farm stands overflowing with local produce, and across the Willamette River on a delightful ferry ride.
Before you leave, do call the Wheatland Ferry to make sure it is running that day: (503) 588-7979. It runs all year except Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it's occasionally closed for high water or repairs. There is sometimes a brief wait for the ferry, but you can get out of your car and enjoy the riverbank while you wait. Ferry toll for passenger cars is $2.
Our favorite route is the one that spends the least possible amount of time on the freeway. GPS will never give you this route, but if you follow these directions you can’t go wrong.
Going south from Portland on I-5, take Donald/Aurora Exit #278, turning right onto Ehlen Road. Continue straight ahead east for a total of 5 miles (along the way Ehlen Road becomes Yergen Road, then Yergen Road becomes McKay Road), then turn left onto French Prairie Road. Landmark at the intersection of McKay Road and French Prairie Road is Fergusen’s Fragrant Nursery on the right – nice demonstration gardens, worth a stop!
Go south on French Prairie Road a total of 10 miles. The essential thing to remember is that, for these 10 miles, whenever you are confronted with a choice, go straight ahead. In particular: after 2.1 miles there is a stop sign where French Prairie Road becomes Highway 219. Go straight ahead south. After another 2.8 miles there is another stop sign where French Prairie/219 becomes River Road. Do not turn; go straight ahead south 5.3 miles further, then turn right on Matheny Road. (Matheny Road is just past Concomly Road; if you get to Waconda Road you have gone too far.) Go 3 miles on Matheny Road, through the hop fields with their towering trellis system – a sight to behold in the growing season, then turn right onto Wheatland Road and follow it to the ferry landing.
After you cross the river, go straight ahead on Wheatland Road about a mile, then turn left on Wallace Road (Highway 221). Go 2.8 miles on Wallace Road, perhaps stopping at Daum's produce stand for whatever is in season, then turn right onto Hopewell Road and immediately left onto Spring Valley Road. Go 3.8 miles on Spring Valley Road to Zena Road, passing Cristom Vineyards and Witness Tree Vineyard on the right, slowing down to admire the iconic view of historic Zena Church as you come down the hill. Turn right on Zena Road. Go 1.7 miles on Zena Road, passing St. Innocent Winery on the right. At the crest of the hill, turn right onto Bethel Heights Road and go about a mile up the road, then turn right at the sign for Bethel Heights Vineyard. Welcome!