The 21-mile long stretch of road known as the Salem-Dayton Highway is a relatively flat-road bike ride. There are just a few moderate hills, and these are nearer to W. Salem than to Dayton. The traffic is heavy at times, and the shoulder seems narrow when all those large trucks begin passing, but as the rider gets nearer to Dayton there is a nice, wide bike path, which is a lot less terrifying for those of us who are amateur bicyclists. A LOT.
Wallace RD NW leads from W.Salem to the Willamette Valley Cheese Company where you can sample an array of farmstead cheeses, to the Wheatland Ferry which carries all manner of vehicles across the Willamette River, and to the Maud Williamson State Park which is home to the historic farmhouse of the acreage’s original donor (Maud Williamson), then onto some Dayton Oregon Wineries which proffer numerous wine tastings. It is hard to believe that all this can be found on that short stretch of road sometimes known as Oregon State HWY 221. Seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the upper Willamette Valley is a certain bonus while traveling through here.
According to their website, Willamette Valley Cheese Company is one of the first cow’s milk farmstead cheese makers in Oregon, defining “farmstead” to mean that they milk their own cows and make it into cheese that same day. The family at Willamette Valley Cheese Company has been in the dairy business in the United States since 1962,
having for many generations been dairy farmers in Holland.
Among the award-winning cheeses made at Willamette Valley Cheese Company such as Havarti, Eola Jack, Farmstead Fontina and Gouda, are their much sought after specialty cheeses such as French Prairie Brie and Aged Asiago. While visiting and sampling cheese, perhaps you will notice the heritage barn which sits on the farm.
The Wheatland Ferry has been ferrying people across the Willamette River between Marion and Yamhill counties for over 150 years. The first ferry was a wooden raft powered by men who controlled the ferry with wooden poles. Daniel Matheny started the ferry and each new boat is named after him.
Across HWY 221, just west of the Ferry landing is Maud Williamson State Park, which is home to a sprawling family of second growth Douglas Fir and a historic farm house, and in the spring, trillium grow abundantly (please don’t pick the trillium. They can die and take years to recover, if at all).
According to a recent map of wine makers, there are 7 wineries in Dayton Oregon, so it may not be possible to tour all of them in one stint. Touring at least one would be a wonderful way to cap off visiting all the other highlights along this route. After noting the beautiful scenery along with all those charming barns during this tour, a glass of wine just might hit the spot.
Note: The route I took when I first traveled this area and took photos was from River RD N. to Wheatland RD, across the ferry and S. back to Salem along 221. I did not make it to Dayton during this trek. I did, however, stop to buy some amazing jalapeno jack cheese at the Willamette Cheese Factory and was captivated by Daum’s big red barn pictured here.