Sunday, December 10, 2006

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Preserve Tour

After several visits, here is some commentary on Oaks Bottom, a park and wildlife refuge on the Willamette River in Portland.

Dozens of great blue herons stand in the open, shallow lakes, just far enough apart to be out of beaks reach of each other. The grey color of both the water and the herons made a close look necessary to pick them out. The joggers running by will miss them easily. A single bright white great egret slowly strode across a marshy area, acting no different from the great blues but certainly standing out in the crowd!

A smooth asphalt handicap-accessible path runs North and South from just upstream from here and miles downstream into Portland, ending at the Steel Bridge. The way crosses on a pedestrian path under the bridge and loops through the urban parks of the Portland Waterfront area. This complex of walkways gives Portland a unique combination of urban and nature. It's popular with cyclists, walkers and hikers alike. We brought Grandma in her wheelchair, as nature is one of her few pleasures at 82. Its possible to link this path complex with the more easterly sections of the Springwater rails-to-trails project, bringing several other parks within cycling distance on a day trip. On foot this will take more than one day! The trail section from Oaks Bottom east is funded but yet to be constructed, so a short jaunt on city streets is necessary. To find a route, just drag the Google map to see the streets. The trail crosses 99E on a new bridge near Ochoco Street at about 19th Avenue The trail follows Johnson Creek Blvd for quite a ways, then Foster, eventually ending at Boring. An eventual expansion will follow the old rail line to Estacada, and hence into the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Crest Trail. So one day it may be possible to start a hike in downtown Portland and end up at the border with Canada or Mexico.

Some unpaved side paths lead to Willamette River views while others circle the lakes and wetlands of the bottoms. More trails link with the Southeast Portland Sellwood neighborhoods. In the pictures here note the skyscrapers of Portland in the background. On the far side against the bluffs wood ducks and the prolific mallards are crowded in their abundance. These ducks seem to prefer being near the small logs blown to this side of the lake. They can use them for perching out of the water yet still be away from shore and its dangers. A single surf scoter was sighted, rare inland from the Pacific and almost never seen in Portland.

Between the marshes and the Willamette River is first a much used railroad track and then the 44 acre (17.8 h.) Oaks Amusement Park. It's been there since 1905. In the 1800's the river connected directly with the bottoms, and the bottoms extended another mile North. The South end became a garbage dump,and the North was largely filled in with debris from freeway construction.

See our earlier Great Blue Heron post

Go to a Google Map of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Preserve. Start at the bottom center of the map, finding the label 'Oaks Pioneer Park'. That park is on top of the riverbank bluff, and Oaks Bottom is below, the brownish area to the north of the label. The Google arial photo was taken during the summer low water.

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