A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Freeway Lakes: The weeds have taken over

Written September 27th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

An angler tries his luck at Freeway Lakes on Sept. 23. In the distance, thick beds of water primrose.

If you haven’t been to Freeway Lakes southeast of Albany for a couple of years or so, you’ll be shocked to see the sorry shape the place is in now.

Much of the surface of the east and middle lakes is covered with thick beds of Ludwigia, better known as water primrose. So forget about boating.

The banks are so overgrown that people have complained on Facebook that there’s hardly any place to reach the water for fishing.

I’ve done a couple of pieces about Freeway Lakes on this site since 2013. The latest, three years ago, sketches the story of how these lakes came to to exist and how they became a Linn County Park. You can look it up here.

The east lake, where there’s a gravel launch ramp and parking lot off Three Lakes Road, looked free of the primrose weeds in the spring of 2018, and the wooden dock was still in place. Now the dock is gone, and there’s little open water left.

Linn County Parks Director Brian Carroll told me Monday that the dock was removed because of vandalism, and there’s no current plan to replace it. Looks like the vandals won.

As for the infestation of weeds, Carroll wrote in an email: “We are working with the Calapooia Watershed Council on the … issue. We had a spray contract in place for about two years and are working on renewing that contract. The east lake and now the middle lake are silting in, and that is leading to a fertile environment for plants like Ludwigia to take hold. We will continue to work with Calapooia Watershed to eradicate the Ludwigia. But it will be a continual problem due to influx of seeds from Oak Creek feeding the lake.”

I’ll check with the watershed council about the status of that eradication effort. What does it entail, and when will it start? And if Oak Creek is picking up water primrose bits upstream, can that be prevented?

In the meantime, Carroll added, “A group of people that would like to form a friends group for Freeway Lakes has approached us, and I believe that is a great idea.”

He is referring to a volunteer effort led by Frank Frenzel, who called my attention to the situation at the lakes last week. He’s the administrator of a public group on Facebook, “Let’s Restore Freeway Lakes.” As of Monday the group had 39 members.

These lakes aren’t big, and the constant traffic noise from I-5 makes them not exactly idyllic. But they’re the only publicly accessible bodies of water close to Albany that warrant being called lakes. The county should do its best to restore them and then keep them in usable shape. (hh)

A sign at the county park explains the problem.


The east lake as seen from Three Lakes Road on Sept. 23.


The middle lake has been reduced to a channel through the primrose weeds.


Despite their problems, the lakes are still home to fish, such as these.


11 responses to “Freeway Lakes: The weeds have taken over”

  1. Bill Higby says:

    Well, I used to enjoy fishing there once in a while, but in addition to the weeds,which are worse this year far worse than than last year, the trash, vandalism and general lack of maintenance for the past few years has made this an inhospitable place to take kids. Maybe letting it silt up is a good idea.

  2. Bob Woods says:

    Best guess: the increase in the plants is probably a result of increased water temperatures and excess nutrients.

    It’s happening everywhere. Thank you Global Climate Change.

  3. Jake JJ Jack Johnny Hartman says:

    Do the math.

    In 2019, Linn County was home to 129,749 persons. For the sake of argument, lets say an even 130-thousand residents in 2021.

    The “Let’s Restore Freeway Lakes” group has 39 members asking the County to spend an unknown dollar amount to improve tiny ponds. Current support for this restoration amounts to 0.003%, or, put another way, 99.997% of Linn County residents don’t know about these ponds, don’t visit the puddles, or simply don’t care.

    Questions of cost-benefit cannot be ignored simply so that a few fisherman can cast a line. Linn County is awash in life-threatening challenges, one being the County’s miserable Covid vaccination rate of barely over 48%. Even with large state advertising dollars promoting vaccines, Linn County officials are unable to convince area residents to be vaccinated. How then can we expect them to spend precious time or revenue on weed-filled washbasins? Priorities?

    • Abe Cee says:

      How does vaccination have anything to do with fishing with the exception of “people”? Or are you saying that only vaccinated people should be allowed to go fishing? Or maybe only vaccinated people should be apart of the restoration group…in which case the odds are that roughly 20 of them aren’t vaccinated so they shouldn’t be involved either? Which maybe is your entire point in any case.

      Or, most likely, you just have nothing better to do with your time than preach about why people should be vaccinated instead of letting them choose for themselves before going fishing..

    • Frank Frenzel says:

      J.J. you are kind of right, the county parks dept. really don’t have a lot of money to spend on the as you put it Ponds! But that’s what I do. There are nonprofits that I am working with to help fund it as well as the State Marine Board with the dock situation. It’s not that big of a deal to restore it. Just some good old elbow grease.

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Global warming and unwillingness to be vaccinated as the primary causative agents of primrose taking over the lakes?

    That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.

    • Jake Jaques JJ Johnny Hartman says:

      I was under the impression, having been rejected for similar reasons, that personal attacks on commenters is not allowed by the Hasso Hering Rules For Commenters, yet here we see a personal assailment by a regular and well known Commenter. It seems the Hasso Hering Rules of Deportment apply unequally.

      Given his steady drumbeat of lubricious attack, it seems some ink slingers of perniciousness are more acceptable to this column’s author than others. No one minds playing within the rules as long as all the players receive the same treatment.
      Oh well…consider the source, yes?

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        I use the Justice Scalia approach, “I don’t attack people. I attack ideas.”

        Unvaccinated people as a causative agent of primrose is a stupid idea.

        Now if I would have said, “JJ is an idiot”, that clearly would have crossed the line.

    • Francois DeLacroix says:

      All things are one thing.

  5. Scott Bruslind says:

    How about triploid grass carp?
    They’re sterile, and the aquatic plant management option of choice for many Southern states.
    I’ll check to see about California, but when I was working on a fish farm in the Imperial Valley, grass carp were considered an elegant control option. We raised Tilapia for the Asian live market- fast growers and more money than grass carp. But, grass carp are a fascinating species. Kind of cute in the right light.

  6. David Cross says:

    Ludwigia, or water primrose, is also invading many backwaters on the Willamette River, reducing them to choked anaerobic mud pits. Water quality cost-benefit analysis is not simply an ODFW or Oregon State Marine Board issue.

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