Category: Exploring Nature Item
GPS Coordinates: 42.190028, -122.716972
Distance: 6 miles (9.6 km) cumulatively
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Elevation Gain: Most of the trails within the park offer little elevation gain.
People lived in and around the Ashland Creek centuries before modern-day Ashland was established. The reliable water source, moderate climate and thick woodlands made the area desirable for hunting, trapping, foraging and agriculture.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the area also benefited economically from new residents pouring into the area after gold was discovered in the nearby Klamath Mountains. Ashland didn’t have any gold, but it did have a very rare lithia water spring nearby. This mineral water contains lithium carbonate and lithium chloride, salts which are believed to have beneficial effects on human health, especially in alleviating melancholy and other mental health concerns. Discovery of the water in 1917 prompted Ashland to rebrand itself as a health resort community. The development of Lithia Park, which began seven years later, was part of this process and still features a public drinking fountain which supplies lithia water to thirsty visitors. Ashland residents who advocated for the park’s development also saw it as a venue for the educational and cultural activities connected to the Chautauqua Movement. In fact, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival complex which abuts the park sits on the historic chautauqua site.
Lithia Park encompasses the natural course of the Ashland Creek with hiking paths on both sides, interspersed with gardens, play areas, performance centers, tennis courts and duck ponds. Wild animals inhabit or frequent the park and can provide some great photo opportunities. Common species include deer, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and a huge variety of birds. Plant communities include native woodland and riparian species. The park’s Japanese Garden and groves offer visitors the chance to enjoy exotic flora as well.
The trails are well-maintained and interconnected, providing plenty of choices when it comes to scenery and length of the hike. The further you progress into the park, the more you’ll feel like you’re in an isolated wilderness rather than the center of town. At its furthest point, there’s a swimming reservoir. Bathrooms and drinking fountains are located throughout the park.
Related Information: Hiking | Outdoor Etiquette | Outdoor Safety | Chautauqua – Bringing Science, Nature and Culture to Rural Oregon