10 Best Wetlands to Visit in May

May is American Wetlands Month, which means as Oregonians we have a lot to celebrate. Wetlands are the link between land and water and here in Oregon they are as diverse as our landscape. Our wetlands range from coastal estuaries, to frigid glacial melt water, to scalding hot springs in the middle of arid sagebrush. Many of our most iconic creatures, beavers, salmon, oysters and crabs make their homes in wetlands.

If you haven’t visited a wetland or maybe you don’t know if you have, here are 10 easy wetlands to visit this month. Grab your boots and binoculars if you have them, dust off your kayak and start exploring.  Bring your camera and take a photo for The Wetlands Conservancy #mywetland photo contest while you’re there!


Jackson Bottom WetlandJackson Bottom Wetlands

2600 SW Hillsboro Hwy, Hillsboro, OR 97123

Located minutes south of downtown Hillsboro, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve’s 635 acres are a quiet sanctuary. Over 211 species of birds are sighted annually at Jackson Bottom, including Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, and thousands of Tundra Swans and Northern Pintails, making Jackson Bottom a haven for bird watchers. The Preserve is home to deer, otters, beavers, and thousands of other species. Jackson Bottom Preserve also has a great Education Center, filled with interactive exhibits, open seven days a week 10:00 am – 4:00pm.

Fernhill WetlandFernhill Wetland Preserve

1399 SW Fern Hill Road, Forest Grove, Oregon, 97117

Fernhill Wetlands has undergone a large-scale wetland restoration project to enhance wildlife habitat as well as help treat wastewater more naturally and cost-effectively. In addition to the natural treatment wetlands, the site also includes a scenic water garden, ADA trails and other relatively flat trails, a public rest room and picnic shelter on more than 700 acres owned by Clean Water Services.

Smith and Bybee LakesSmith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area

5300 N Marine Dr, Portland

Take the Interlakes Trail or go by boat to explore one of America’s largest urban wetlands. Either way, you might find beavers, river otters, black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles and Western painted turtles. You’ll also find a water control structure that is restoring this network of sloughs, wetlands and forests.

Camassia Natural AreaCamassia Natural Area

4800 Walnut St, West Linn, OR 97068

Named for the common camas (Camassia quamash) which profusely blooms here in April and early May, this preserve is a tapestry of color in the spring! More than 300 plant species are found on the preserve, including some rare Willamette Valley species (e.g., the rare white rock larkspur occurs here and at only six other places in the world). The shallow soils of this rocky plateau support wet meadows, Oregon white oak-madrone woodlands, vernal and permanent ponds, and even a stand of quaking aspen. There is a beautiful loop trail, 1.4 miles long that will wind you through the meadows.

Tualatin Wildlife RefugeTualatin River Wildlife Refuge

19255 SW Pacific Hwy, Sherwood, OR 97140

Located on the outskirts of Portland, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is one of only a handful of urban national wildlife refuges in the country. Due to its richness and diversity of habitats, the refuge supports some of the most abundant and varied wildlife in the watershed. The refuge is now home to nearly 200 species of birds, over 50 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and a wide variety of insects, fish, and plants. Wander the 3 miles of trails and finish your visit at the Wildlife Center that hosts interactive exhibits and wildlife viewing platforms.

Whitaker PondsWhitaker Ponds Nature Park

7040 NE 47th Ave, Portland OR 97218

A newly renovated nature park is home to two ponds, a ½ mile loop trail, an ecoroof-covered gazebo, and a canoe launch into Whitaker Slough. The two ponds are surrounded by a black cottonwood forest which has been enhanced over the past 15 years with thousands of native plants, native shrubs and wildflowers. The trail circumnavigates 1 of the ponds and gives great views of birds and evidence of beaver along the way.  You can sit on the floating dock to watch the birds or bring a canoe or kayak to float and explore the ponds.

Howell Territorial ParkHowell Territorial Park

13901 NW Howell Park Rd, Portland, OR 97231

Sauvies Island is a wetland haven.  Howell Territorial Park is less than a mile from the bridge and is a great place to learn about the regions natural and cultural history.  Bring your binoculars to check out the birds that flock to the wetlands.  You can also explore the Bybee Howell farmhouse built in the 1850’s.

Mary S Young ParkMary S Young Park

19900 Willamette Drive West Linn, OR 97068

Mary S. Young Park offers you a peaceful place to walk or sit by the Willamette River. About 128 acres, this quiet, forested park is a favorite for urban birders. As you walk deeper into the forest on the numerous trails (5-8 miles worth), it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. There is a great beaver dam that may make a few trails wet, but it will be worth it to see first-hand how beavers are thriving in an urban area.

Oaks Bottom WetlandOaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

SE 7th Avenue and Sellwood Blvd

Oaks Bottom wetland, was rescued from its ignominious status as a landfill and soon-to-be industrial development in 1969 and has become one of Portland’s most beloved wildlife parks. The loop hike takes you along a small stretch of the Springwater Corridor. Water birds can be seen any time of the year, beaver and nutria are active in the backwaters. There are some great frog ponds explore in the spring. To extend the hike, you can continue north on a network of trails above the Willamette until you reconnect with the Springwater to turn and make your return.

Sandy River Delta Thousand AcresSandy River Delta Thousand Acres

99 Crown Point Hwy, Troutdale OR 97060

1,400 acres of land protected by the Forest Service.  Sandy Delta is an extraordinary natural area that’s home to hundreds of birds, amphibians and other sensitive, rare and threatened species. There are also great trails and beautiful wetlands to explore. You can meander or take an explicit route.  Bring your friends, dogs and kids and walk for as long or as little as you want.  In recent years, a lot of work has been done to restore native plants in the delta.  Enjoy spring wildflowers and shallow pools as waters recede in the wet meadow.

Photographers: Top to Bottom: Emily Miller, Hillsboro Community Plan, Megan Zabel Holmes, Metro,  The Wetlands Conservancy,  Sara Uranga,  Kendra Manton, Steve Berliner, Emily Miller, Nanci Swaim, Sandy River Watershed Council.

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