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Polk County Parks

• Ballston — This park is located in what was downtown Ballston and includes the historic Ballston School, believed to be the oldest school building in the state. The park has two picnic tables.

• Buell — This is a park for families. It includes a well-equipped playground and has restrooms. Picnic tables and barbecue pits are nestled among the trees along Mill Creek, and there are trails to explore along the creek. It’s all located just off Highway 22 and a little west of Red Prairie Road.

• Buena Vista — Take Corvallis Road south out of Independence and follow the signs to the Buena Vista Ferry. This is the county’s maritime park, with a boat ramp on the Willamette River. It also has a small dock, picnic tables and a nearby rock that is favored by anglers.

• Eola Heights — Located in West Salem between Eola Drive and Gehlar Road west of Doaks Ferry. The park includes picnic tables, playground equipment and a small ballfield with a backstop.

• Gerlinger — This is very much a nature park. It’s about three miles west of Falls City on the Little Luckiamute River. There are two picnic tables and footbridges to a small island.

• Mill Creek Park / Mill Creek Recreation Site — Mill Creek Park is more primitive, but it’s also more scenic and caters to people who want to get a little farther away from it all. It’s just half a mile from the Mill Creek Recreation Site. The park is owned by the county, and the recreation site is owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

Mill Creek Park features a spectacular scenic canyon.

There are half a dozen picnic tables, some barbecue pits and a large surrounding grassy area complete with a small backstop for hitting baseballs and softballs. It’s a little cramped for a full baseball field, but it’s a great place for getting in some practice.

The recreation site also has picnic areas, restrooms and barbecue pits, as well as a large open area.

There are no developed trails. Moss-covered trees overhang the deep canyon, providing a unique scenic area.

• Nesmith — Nesmith Park is next to the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center on Highway 99W. It was built around the historic James Nesmith family graveyard. The park features nature trails along Rickreall Creek and has picnic tables as well as barbecue pits and a large open grassy area.

• Ritner Creek — The park is four miles west of Pedee on Gage Road, just off Burbank Road and Kings Valley Highway. There are three footbridges across the creek as well as trails along it. There are picnic tables and restrooms.

• Ritner Creek Bridge (Minnie Ritner Ruiter Wayside) — This small wayside park is located along Kings Valley Highway (Highway 223) about three miles south of Pedee. It has picnic tables, a porta-potty and, its featured attraction, a historic covered bridge.

• Social Security Hole — A little difficult to find, this out-of-the-way park is located off Highway 51 and Halls Ferry Road northeast of Independence. It has picnic tables, a restroom and fishing access to the Willamette River.