Category Archives: Wildlife Refuge

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Summer 2018)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

This is one of our favorite places to go to watch birds and get some quick exercise. We try to get out here multiple times a year and it never disappoints.

      

Get on the gravel trail next to the bathroom and follow it past an open grassy marsh area. You may see a few ducks or geese in the water, we saw a young vole along the grass here on this visit which was a first for us!

      

Next enter a small wooded area and follow the path as you pass along another marsh area to your right and come to a split in the trail. We went through the gate to the left (closed Oct-Apr) and followed the trail as it wound back around to the end of refuge and onto the bike trail. Go right here and pass the Purple Martin houses, following the bike trail for a while until you see a trail off to the right that takes you back into the refuge.

      

Next you’ll come to a bridge over Redtail lake. We saw blue-winged teals, mallards, great blue herons, and bullfrogs. After crossing the bridge follow the trail to another bridge and you’ll be back to the seasonal junction. From here you can head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: Minimal (easy)

Pet Friendly: No- dogs are not allowed in the refuge

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All- some parts of the refuge are closed Oct-Apr.

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge- Carty Lake Hike (Spring 2018)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

From the parking area cross the bridge over the railroad tracks and follow the ramp down to the gravel trail. Follow the trail past the plankhouse and take a left at the trail junction.

      

      

The trail goes past duck lake and winds around as you go over a small footbridge. You’ll enter a treelined area and in the spring you can see a lot of birds in this area. We lucked out and briefly saw a Virginia Rail. Keep following the trail and you’ll see Carty Lake off to your left.

      

      

The trail continues and heads left, with the lake off to your left as well. The trail goes all the way to the end of the lake. Head back out the way you came in.

      

      

Since you already paid the entrance fee make sure you head to the ‘S’ Unit of the refuge a few miles away. You can take the driving tour where there is a LOT of wildlife to see.

      

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No dogs are not allowed in the preserve

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: Carty Lake is open May-Sept

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

The parking area at Oaks Bottom is notorious for break-in’s and we had a problem with a man basically telling us he was going to break into our car as soon as we left, we even saw the slim jim in his backpack 🙄. We wont be parking in this main parking lot ever again, it’s too bad because this behavior may make it to where people don’t visit Oaks Bottom. We hope you still visit and we would recommend parking at Oaks Bottom Park.

Directions: From the intersection of SE 17th and Powell, head south on 17th. Cross Holgate and McLoughlin, and head into Sellwood. Turn right on SE Bybee. Bybee turns into SE 13th, follow 13th. Turn right onto Sellwood which veers into SE 7th. You’ll see the parking area for Oaks Bottom Park.

From the parking area get on the trail that heads downhill. Once at the end of this hill go right and go to a split in the trail. This hike can be done as a loop, going left here will get you on the Springwater Trail first, going right has you entering the refuge first. Either way you choose loops around and ends back at this junction. Fair warning…on the weekend there is a large train that runs right along the Springwater Trail and it is VERY loud. Because we were here during the time the train runs we decided to make this an out-and-back hike. We went right at the junction and entered into the refuge. You’ll immediately be following along a marshy area where there are a lot of water birds. We saw mallards, pintails, coots, and geese.

      

The trail switches from packed dirt and rocks to boardwalk as you follow along. There is a viewing platform out to the marsh and Oaks Park, we saw a few great blue herons and an eagle here. As we continued hiking we saw a brown creeper, bushtits, crows, scrub jays, a hummingbird, and golden-crowned sparrows.

      

The trail is very easy to follow and you will pass by the Portland Memorial Mausoleum, it has large paintings on it. Eventually you’ll come to a junction, you can turn around here or continue left and visit the tadpole pond.

      

This is a great hike for wildlife viewing and would be great for kids as well. The trail is very easy and there is a lot to look at along the way.

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 150 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: Break-ins at the main parking area.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

      

Take the path that follows the bridge over the train tracks and curves down into the refuge. Following the path as it passes a plank house you can take a left a follow the trail that takes you by Duck Lake and winds back in to where you’ll come to a seasonal closure.

      

      

Back at the plank house stay straight/right and follow the trail until you see a side trail with a hiker marker on your right. Take this path through the trees and eventually come to Boot Lake. You can’t walk around the lake so keep following the main trail as you gain a bit of elevation and get a look down into the marshy wetland area. Loop back around and down where you will be back on the main trail that takes you back past the plank house to your car.

      

      

We saw many geese, trumpeter swans, robins, flickers, hawks, and scrub jays.

      

Since you’ve already paid the refuge entrance fee you should drive out of the Carty Unit and head for the ‘S’ Unit section of the Refuge. This is an auto tour from Oct- Apr and we really enjoyed it. We were able to see great blue herons, nutria, deer, hawks, a kestrel, and many small birds.

Make sure to pick up a brochure at the pay station/trailhead at the Carty Unit. It has maps of the whole refuge and lots of great information.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area pass the bathroom (there is a whiteboard on the side that has a list of wildlife people have seen recently, it’s worth a look) and get on the trail. You’ll pass a few interpretive signs and soon be following along next to a large open grassy/marshy area.

      

After passing by a couple branches of Steigerwald Lake you will enter a small wooded area. Here we saw a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Brown Creeper.

      

      

Keep following the trail and you’ll come to a split in the trail, part of the refuge is closed October through April to protect winter birds. Go right and cross the bridge, in here we saw a Bald Eagle. Follow the trail to another bridge over Redtail Lake. We saw Northern Shovelers and Coots in the lake as well as a sleeping Nutria in the grass. You can continue on from here where the trail ends at the dike trail.

      

Head back the way you came in.

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: None

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Part of the trail is closed Oct-Apr

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Zumwalt Prairie- Patti’s Trail (Summer)

Directions: From the town of Enterprise take Highway 82 towards Joseph for about 3 miles. Turn left on Crow Creek Road and go 5 miles. Turn right onto Zumwalt/Buckhorn Road and drive for about 14 miles to the junction of Zumwalt/Buckhorn and Duckett Road. Turn right on Duckett Road and drive for about 1.5 miles to the barn on the right side of the road. This is the Duckett Barn and there is a small pullout and kiosk, this is where you park for this hike.

Be aware that a good amount of the drive is on a dirt road. It was in pretty good shape but there were potholes and it’s a pretty slow go.

From the parking area cross the road and head off on the narrow trail that cuts straight through tall grass. There are small posts with arrows that lead you through this whole hike. The dirt trail starts out level as you go through the prairie and cut through a few barbed wire fences. You’ll gradually start to head downhill slightly as you pass the headwaters of Camp Creek. We were here in early August and there was barely a trickle here so it was hard to figure out exactly where the creek actually started. Down in here we saw a short eared owl, ferruginous hawk and red tailed hawk.

      

The trail levels out again and follows along the creek with hills on either side of the trail. Down here there was a lot of thistle growing and a ton of butterflies! It was amazing to see all the different types. As the trail wraps around the base of a hill you’ll come to where the trail splits, go left where you head up a hill and get good views of the prairie.

      

The trail dips again and then heads back up and back to the prairie. There are two places where you have to climb up some steps that take you over the fence, it’s not too hard but just be aware for older folks and younger kids. As you follow the arrows back through the meadow you’ll connect with the first part of the trail that takes you back to your car.

      

We did this hike during a very dry time so the creek was non existent and the grass was dry and poky. There was also a lot of smoke from the surrounding wildfires. It was still a nice hike but we’re excited to come back when the wildflowers are blooming and things are a bit more alive.

       

It’s a great place to birdwatch- we saw savannah sparrows, western kingbirds, barn swallows, as well as the birds mentioned above and much more. We also saw a few deer and lots of cows on the drive in!

      

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 150 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in Zumwalt Prairie.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 east to Hood River and cross the bridge into Washington ($1 toll). Turn left onto SR-14 and follow this road until you take a right onto 141A to Trout Lake. In Trout Lake, turn right onto Trout Creek Rd, this turns into Trout Lake Highway. You’ll see signs for Conboy Lake Refuge, follow them in and back to the parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail by the informational sign and follow it through the tall grass. We were here on a very hot day and even though it was early morning it was still a very toasty walk through this area. Soon you’ll come to a side trail that takes you off to the right to the Whitcomb-Cole Hewn Log House. This short side trip is worth it, as you can go into the old pioneer log home built in 1891. Look for small lizards in this area near the base of the house.

      

      

Back on the main trail you will start to see many birds flying around the area especially on the wires above and near the bird boxes. A few that we saw were tree and cliff swallows, red-winged blackbirds, and robins. We were also able to see a deer out in the field. After following this trail for a bit you will come to a split in the trail, go right and head towards the tree line.

      

Once in the trees you’ll get a nice respite from the heat and start to see different types of birds such as flickers and harry woodpeckers, we also saw a few different types of squirrels and a skunk. The trail is lined with pine trees and low shrubs as you eventually make your way to a viewpoint. The wooden platform overlooks a large grassy meadow and gives you a really nice view of Mt. Adams.

      

Once you’re done at the viewpoint continue on the trail, making sure you are following the signs that take you back to the parking area. The trail gets a little harder to follow once you get to where you can see the refuge office. Just pick up any of the narrow trails that head towards the office and you’ll be fine.

      

We were hoping to see the sandhill cranes that frequent this area but it wasn’t the best time of year for it. Parts of this hike are a little boring but we mostly think that was due to the time of year as well. We plan on coming back in fall or spring to see what wildlife we can see.

 

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 50 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed on the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Spring)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail as it follows along a large open field with branches of Steigerwald Lake running through it. There were many different birds out in the grass and shrubs and some water birds in the stream. You will soon enter an area with more trees and a stream off to your right. When you get to the split, go left through the seasonal door (open May through September) and follow the trail as it goes along the field and enters a wooded area. There are lots of birds in this area as well.

      

      

You will round a corner and leave the refuge and get on the Columbia River Dike Trail. There are a lot of Purple Martin houses here and they are all flying around which is great. Go right on the trail and follow it a short distance where you will take a side trail and get back into the refuge. You’ll pass a tall interpretive sign and cross a bridge over Redtail Lake, here we saw a Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, and Canada Geese in the water. In the trees and grass lining the water we saw Red-Wing Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and a Common Yellowthroat. After crossing the bridge you’ll enter and wooded area, we saw many birds here including an Osprey and Wilson’s Warblers.

      

      

      

There is another bridge that you cross and you’re back at the seasonal door. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

We were previously here in mid summer and it was nice but very hot. Spring is a great time, birds are nesting and very active, and the weather is great.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends

Overall: Spring is a great time to visit this wildlife refuge

William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge (Winter)

Directions: Drive I-5 to exit 228, turn right onto OR-34 W and follow it for about 9.5 miles. Turn left onto OR-45 Bypass and just less than a mile later merge onto OR-99W. Follow this road until you see signs for the refuge, where you will turn onto Finley Road. Follow this gravel road a short distance where you will enter the refuge on the left.

This is a large wildlife refuge with lots of different hiking trails. Some are open year-round and some are only open from April to October. In this post we’ll be talking about three of the trails.

Homer Campbell Memorial Trail- 1 mile

This is an out and back trail on boardwalk that takes you to an observation blind. The boardwalk takes you through the Muddy Creek riparian area that is full of ash trees. We saw quite a few Wood Ducks in the wooded area. When we reached the blind we saw Tundra Swans and Canada Geese out in Cabell Marsh. We also saw many Song Sparrows in the trees right around the blind.

      

      

Just past this trailhead is the Fletcher House and an old red barn, they are both worth a short stop.

      

Woodpecker Loop Trail- 1.1 miles

This is a lollipop trail, the trail heads into the woods at an even grade, soon you will start the loop by heading right and crossing over a small footbridge. From here the trail starts to head uphill, it’s nothing too steep. You will come to an observation deck that’s built around a large oak tree that gives you a nice view of the refuge. Continue following the loop through and open field area to a small seasonal pond. From here you head back into a more heavily wooded area, the trail starts to drop down and takes you to the end of the loop where you follow the trail back to your car.

      

      

This trailhead is very close to the refuge headquarters, they have a small gift shop and bathrooms here. There is also a few feeders and plants that attract many birds. We saw Rufous Hummingbirds, Mourning Doves, an Acorn Woodpecker, and many Tree Swallows.

      

McFadden’s Marsh Trail- .30 mile

This short trail is located on the far side of the refuge, there are a few ponds that are worth stopping at along the road on the way.

This short gravel and boardwalk trail takes you along McFaddens Marsh to a observation blind. We saw an Egret, Canada Geese, and Red-Winged Blackbirds in this area.

      

 

We will definitely be back this spring or summer to check out the seasonal trails.

 

Distance: 1-8+ miles, depends on the season and which trails you decide to take.

Elevation: Depends but there seems to not be too much elevation in any one trail.

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Dogs are NOT allowed in the refuge

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great birdwatching, excited to see what birds we can see in other seasons.

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Winter)

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 294. Get onto 99W/Barbur Boulevard and drive about 6.5 miles. Take a right into the Refuge.

From the parking area follow the trail down into a wide gravel path with trees. There are many side trails and benches with informational signs. The path goes down a small hill and over a bridge where you will start to follow along the Tualatin River. We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately and the river was definitely over it’s bank. There were large areas of the trail along the river that were flooded out and you needed to go way out into the grass to get around it.

      

There is a platform area that gives you a view of the river and has an informational sign. Continuing on you head toward a thicker wooded area. The trail was flooded out here and we couldn’t go any farther. If you are able to continue, the trail takes you out to a wetland observation deck. It gives you great views and there are usually lots of birds out this way.

      

Head back out the way you came in and make sure you check out the visitor center. There are a few telescopes that let you get a nice closeup view of the wetlands. As well as lots of interpretive stuff.

      

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 60 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place to do some birding.