Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 04/13/2023

We have eagerly been awaiting the arrival of Spring but instead we are seemingly stuck in Winter. I had scheduled a couple of days off in mid-April with dreams of sunny hikes filled with wildflowers and great views. Those dreams were put on hold and my hopes turned to dry hikes with decent views and maybe some wildlife.

I turned to an old reliable source for wildlife for my first hike of my extended weekend and made the 15 minute drive to the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Despite its proximity to our house this was only my fourth time hiking at the refuge, in large part due to the fact that the vast majority of the trails and refuge is closed from October 1st through March 31st. With our official hiking season running from the start of May through the end of October our window for visiting is basically just the month of April unless it shows up on our actual schedule. (My previous visits were in April, May and July.)

The forecast was for a dry, partly cloudy morning with a chance of showers starting after 11am. There was however a frost advisory, so I was expecting a chilly outing. As I pulled out of our garage I was encouraged to see the start of what looked to be a beautiful sunrise. As the crow flies the refuge is a mere 8 miles from home, but it lies in a valley while we are on a hill. As I drove down the hill toward the highway I quickly realized that low lying clouds were camped out in the valley and a solid bank of fog greeted me at the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
Baskett Butte Trailhead

The fog made my choice of whether to visit the viewing platform atop Baskett Butte now or on the way back easy, so when I came to the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop I veered right.
Foggy morning along the Rich Guadagno Trail

I had a rough idea of where all I was hoping to go on this visit and now that I knew I was saving the viewpoint for later the plan came more into focus. I would follow the Memorial Loop to the Inter-Tie Trail and take that trail to the Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail. I planned on hiking that loop clockwise to visit Moffitti Marsh and then Morgan Lake before taking the Inter-Tie Trail back to the Memorial Loop.
ButtercupsThere were a few buttercups blooming in the grass and not much else along this side of the Memorial Trail.

Strawberry blossomA lone strawberry blossom.

Baskett Slough Wildlife RefugeThe Inter-Tie Trail was a wet and muddy affair. I could hear a lot of birds in the surrounding trees but couldn’t make any of them out unless they flew right in front of me.

Start of the Moffitti Morgan Loop TrailI went left here which got me out of the slick mud but onto even wetter grass.

There hadn’t been a lot to get excited about as I made my way along the loop until I got close to Moffitti Marsh which was full of water from our wet Spring.
Moffitti Morgan Loop TrailComing up on the marsh which is just on the other side of the dip in the road.

RabbitsTwo rabbits trying to decide if they were going to keep eating grass or race off into the blackberry bushes.


While there were a decent number of ducks in the water at the marsh getting pictures or even making out what types they were was difficult due to the fog.
Moffitti Marsh

Ring-necked ducksRing-necked ducks

Marsh wrenI think this is a marsh wren.

Beyond the marsh the trail follows a fence line along some farmland, and it was along this stretch that the I got the first sign that the fog might be starting to lift.
Farm along the Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail

By the time I’d reached Smithfield Road, where the trail turns right, I was in a fairly clear pocket which was fortunate because there were several different types of birds in the area.
Farm across from the Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail

A cackling goose in with Canada geeseI think the 2nd goose in from the right is a cackling goose while the others are Canada geese. It’s a bit smaller and the white patch is shaped differently.


California quailCalifornia quail

Just before reaching the Smithfield Road Trailhead I passed a bustling wetland with northern shovelers and cinnamon teals.
Wetland along the Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail

Cinnamon tealCinnamon teals

Northern shovelerNorthern shoveler drake

Northern shoverlersNorthern shoveler females

Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail at the Morgan Lake TrailheadSigns at the Smithfield Road Trailhead.

My break from the fog was short lived and I found it again at Morgan Lake.
Morgan Lake

There were a lot of ducks out on the lake but again they were not easy to make out.

Ring-necked duckRing-necked duck

Lesser scaupPossibly a lesser scaup.


The trail along the swollen lake was basically flooded which made for a cold trudge through the grass and mud. It turned out to be worth it though as shortly after passing the lake I spotted a herd of elk on a hillside that we’d seen elk on before.
Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge



Bull elk with antler startsThe only bull I could pick out.

When the loop trail made a 180 degree turn to begin climbing back toward the Inter-Tie Trail I refocused on looking for wildflowers. I quickly spotted a few fawn lilies.
Moffitti Morgan Loop Trail

Fawn lily

My focus bounced between the numerous birds that were singing and flitting about in the trees and looking for more flowers as I continued uphill.

Moffitti Morgan Loop TrailBench overlooking Morgan Lake

Morgan Lake from the Moffitti Morgan Loop TrailMorgan Lake from the bench.

Spotted towheesSpotted towhees

Lots of geeseA lot of geese way below the trail.

I took the Inter-Tie Trail back to the Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop where I veered right to finish it and visit the viewing platform.
Rich Guadagno Trail

ToothwortI started seeing a lot of toothwort on this side of the loop.

Fawn liliesMore fawn lilies too.

Rich Guadagno TrailThe viewing platform on Baskett Butte to the right.

Western meadowlarkOne of several western meadowlarks (Oregon’s state bird) on the butte.

American kestralAmerican kestral

Western meadowlarkA better look at the yellow on the meadowlarks.

View from the Rich Guadagno Memorial platformView from the platform.

I called an audible at the viewpoint and decided to finally follow the small but obvious path down the SE side of Baskett Butte. I wasn’t sure exactly where it came out but I suspected that it came out somewhere along Coville Road. If my suspicion was correct then I planned on following Coville Road south to the Cackler Marsh Trail, one that I hadn’t hiked before.
Baskett Slough Wildlife RefugeSign along the path.

Fawn liliesMore fawn lilies.

Baskett Slough Wildlife RefugeThe path leading down toward Coville Road. The outhouse at the Baskett Butte Trailhead is on the left below.

Baskett ButteBaskett Butte from below.

Sure enough the path ended at Coville Road a very short distance from the outhouse. I turned south (right) on the road and followed it 0.2-miles to a gate at the start of the Cackler Trail.
Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

Baskett Slough Wildlife RefugeThe trail is simply a dike road that leads to the refuge HQs.

Baskett Slough Wildlife RefugeThe headquarters is to the left of the road on the far side of South Slough.

I followed this trail to the end of the water before turning around. There were a lot of ducks, geese, and blackbirds around.
Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

American coots and some ducksAlso a bunch of American coots.

Northern shovelersNorthern shovelers


Red-winged blackbirdRed-winged blackbird

YellowlegsYellowlegs (probably lesser)

Baskette Butte to the leftBaskett Butte (left) from my turn around point.

On the way back to the trailhead I did spot a lone ruddy duck dozing along the shore.
Ruddy duck

Ruddy duckThe ruddy duck woke up after all the American coots headed off.

Savannah sparrowSavannah sparrow

American kestralOne more American kestral

My outing came in at 6.6 miles with a little over 300′ of elevation gain. It turned out to be a nice morning after the early fog and by the end I had some views of the snow in the Coast Range.

Hopefully actual Spring weather is just around the corner because our hiking season sure is. The snow pack is currently well above average which is great, but we are ready for some sunshine. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Baskett Slough 2023

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