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Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Pigeon Butte – 05/31/2020

A cloudy weekend forecast had us looking for a hike that was not only open with the ability to properly social distance, and was also not view dependent. This led us to revisit the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge which is open except for the main entrance road, Finley Refuge Rd; was closed to vehicles. We had hiked some of the trails at the refuge in October 2017 (post), but left others unexplored. For this hike we planned to start at the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead located .9 miles along Bruce Road and hike up Pigeon Butte and then continue on a loop that had yet to be determined. We had a few possible options and were playing it by ear based on the weather and how we were feeling as we were still recovering from our first backpacking trip of the year the over Memorial Day weekend.

We had downloaded copies of the refuge map which we learned pretty quickly didn’t show everything present at the refuge. The map showed two parking areas prior to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead so after passing two parking areas we pulled into the third small gravel lot.
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If I had been paying more attention I would have realized that this couldn’t be the right trailhead based on a marsh being on our right instead of Muddy Creek and there not being a view of Pigeon Butte from here. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a heron that flew by right as I was getting out the car which disturbed an egret on the opposite side of the road. I grabbed the camera and was trying to get to a spot where I could see the egret or where the heron might have landed. I couldn’t make anything out through the reeds in that direction but then I looked at the marsh on the side of the road we had parked on and there was another blue heron just about right in front of me.
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There was also a rough-skinned newt on the bridge and a duck leading her ducklings away through the marsh.
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It also may have had something to do with it having been just before 6 am when we’d arrived but in the excitement of seeing all the wildlife my critical thinking had no chance and we set off on the grassy path which was not leading by Cheadle Marsh but rather McFadden’s Marsh.
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We hiked through the wet grass for .6 miles before starting to think we might be on the wrong path. It was here that we crossed a drainage ditch coming from Muddy Creek and feeding into the marsh. That prompted a look at the GPS which seemed to indicate that we were in the wrong spot, but I didn’t believe it at first because we’d parked at the third parking area and the map showed that Cheadle Marsh was the third.
IMG_4726Lupine along McFadden’s Marsh

IMG_4727Small bird in the grass.

IMG_4731I am almost never sure on yellow flowers like these which one it actually is.

IMG_4733Mallard at McFadden’s Marsh.

IMG_4738Ditch draining into the marsh.

Wood duck and ducklingWood duck and duckling speeding away down the ditch.

IMG_4743Watch your step in the grass!

IMG_4747Another heron standing in the marsh.

We went another quarter mile before I was able to convince myself that we were indeed on the wrong path and that I shouldn’t have trusted the map. It’s a love hate relationship with maps. You should always have at least one map of the area with you but they aren’t always accurate so sometimes you have to use other available information to get the full picture. We walked back to the parking area and decided to just leave our car there and walk up Bruce Rd. to the correct trailhead which was a little less than a quarter mile away.
IMG_4751Walking over Muddy Creek on Bruce Road.

IMG_4759A pair of California quail and a rabbit on Bruce Road near the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead.

Now that we were at the correct trailhead we did indeed have a view of Pigeon Butte.
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We passed a gate and followed another grassy track between Cheadle Marsh on the left and the hidden (thick vegetation) Muddy Creek on the right.
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There wasn’t as much activity at the smaller Cheadle Marsh but there was a lone duck paddling about in an apparent effort to unveil breakfast.
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There were also numerous smaller birds which was a theme throughout the whole visit. Most were so busy flying from tree to tree or reed to reed that only quick glimpses could be had while hiking, but we could see that settling down in one spot to bird watch would likely be productive.
IMG_4769Red-winged blackbird that did pose for a moment.

We followed this grassy path for almost a mile as it headed north past the marsh then turned west toward Pigeon Butte.
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Just before the mile mark we came to a junction where a short grassy track headed uphill to the right just over 100 yards to the historic Cheadle Barn. Originally constructed in 1900 the barn is now on the Benton County Reister of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
IMG_4783Note the rabbit in the foreground, this was a theme on the day.

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After visiting the barn we returned to the junction and continued what was now south on the grassy track for another 110 yards to another junction near a pond. Continuing south would lead us back to Bruce Road not far from the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead allowing for a short (around 2 mile) loop. We turned right passing by the pond on what was now a gravel track.
IMG_4808The pond and Cheadle Barn.

Pied-billed grebe familyPied-billed grebe family at the pond.

20200531_072839Ookow

IMG_4809Heading toward Pigeon Butte.

We followed this path to the edge of Pigeon Butte where it turned north again and climbed a bit along the butte’s shoulder.
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We turned left on another grassy track at the edge of the tree line and headed up the 543′ butte. The road was fairly busy but not with other hikers.
IMG_4814Snail on a stick.

IMG_4820Rough-skinned newt

IMG_4825Spotted towhee that wouldn’t look at us.

IMG_4836Quail on the road near the quarry.

This old road bed led past a quarry to a viewpoint on the SW side of the butte.
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With all the clouds it wasn’t the greatest view and Mary’s Peak (post), the highest point in the Coast Range, was completely hidden by those clouds.
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There was a very overgrown trail leading up toward the summit from the viewpoint.
IMG_4832The trail is on the right of the mass of vetch blooming.

IMG_4842Checkermallow

After checking for any hidden poison oak, the trail was deemed clear and we climbed to the wooded summit.
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The trees obscured any view and thoughts of looping back down along the summit ridge were abandoned when we noticed the increasing presence of poison oak so after tagging the summit we returned to the viewpoint and headed back down the way we’d come. The side trip up Pigeon Butte was just a mile round trip with 180′ of elevation gain. When we arrived back at the junction on the buttes shoulder we turned left and continued north descending past some fields .
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Amid the fields to the left we passed a shallow pond where we spotted an American Coot and her young.
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Just under a mile from the path up Pigeon Butte we came to another intersection. This one had a big sign with pointers for various refuge features.
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From here the loop hike described in the Oregonhikers Field Guide would have us turn left (west) toward the Cattail and Beaver Ponds. We wanted to revisit Cabell Marsh and the Homer Campbell Boardwalk though so we continued north passing some big lupine plants.
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When we reached Cabell Marsh a half mile from the sign we were surprised by the lack of water.
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Later after returning home a little research revealed that the marsh had been drained to try and deal with some invasive species. We turned right at the Homer Campbell Boardwalk which was still as impressive as it had been on our first visit.
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IMG_4879With so little water there wasn’t really a reason to visit the blind.

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We arrived at the parking lot on the far end of the .4 mile boardwalk to find that despite no vehicles being allowed to the trailhead it was still busy.
Three rabbits along the side of the parking areaThree rabbits at the parking area.

IMG_4884Rabbit #1

IMG_4885Rabbit #2

IMG_4886Rabbit #3

IMG_4887Finley Refuge Rd from the parking area (the dark spot in the mowed grass along the far side of the road was another rabbit).

We had left open the possibility of doing a long loop by following this road left to the Woodpecker Loop and retracing much of our 2017 hike but better judgement (and tired feet) prevailed so we returned to Cabell Marsh via a gated grassy roadbed located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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While the lack of water had an impact on the number of birds at the marsh we did manage to spot a few (and a muddy rough-skinned newt).
Band-tailed pigeonsBand-tailed pigeons

IMG_4897Killdeer

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When we arrived back at the signed juction we turned right (west) and headed for the ponds.
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The roadbed headed west for a little over half a mile, passing a nice wooden bench with a view back to Cabell Marsh, before turning south for just under a half mile to a sign for the Cattail Pond.
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IMG_4920One of several male American goldfinches we spotted along this stretch.

IMG_4926Vegetation along Gray Creek.

IMG_4929Mushrooms

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IMG_4941Roses along the roadbed.

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IMG_4951Slug

IMG_4954Yep, another rabbit.

IMG_4956We started to think this rabbit wasn’t going to hop into the brush like all the others had.

IMG_4957Sign for the Cattail Pond.

A left turn here was one option for the loop but we wanted to see the Beaver Pond so we stayed on the roadbed for just a little longer to a sign for the Beaver Pond.
IMG_4959Cattail Pond from the roadbed.

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Common YellowthroatCommon yellowthroat

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We turned left onto a grassy track at the Beaver Pond sign and were soon passing by the pond.
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At the far end of the pond we found ourselves on an actual trail.
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The trail led us around the forested base of Maple Knoll a quarter of a mile to an unsigned junction.
IMG_4981The junction.

Here the maps failed us for a second time. We had expected to come to a junction with the path that had passed by the Cattail Pond at which point we would turn right and head back out to Bruce Road. The maps we had showed no other junctions so we turned right at this junction and followed it along the base of Maple Knoll.
IMG_4982Forest on Maple Knoll’s hillside.

IMG_4983Pinesap

The track we were on was sticking to Maple Knoll though and as it wrapped around the base we were quickly heading west again instead of due south to Bruce Road. After .4 miles we decided we had been fooled again and turned around. The detour hadn’t been a total waste as we got to see a hawk fly over and a group of ground squirrels plotting something nefarious from a stump.
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IMG_5000It’s the one peaking out from behind the stump that had us the most concerned.

When we got back to the unsigned junction we turned right and in 175′ came to a second unsigned junction. We turned right (south) here and this time it was nearly a straight shot along a roadbed for a half mile to Bruce Road and the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead.
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IMG_5007Northern flicker

IMG_5011Sparrow

It was a mile road walk back to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead (one and a quarter back to where we had parked). After the 4 mile paved road walk the weekend before (post) this one gravel wasn’t too bad. There were nice views of Pigeon Butte and quite a few flowers and birds to look at. We were especially excited to see a couple of yellow headed blackbirds, a bird we’d only seen one other time at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (post).
IMG_5018Pigeon Butte

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IMG_5028Red-winged blackbird

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IMG_5066Pollinators in a poppy.

IMG_5070Turkey vulture

IMG_5074Douglas spirea

IMG_5076Grand collomia

Our excursion (with the two accidental out and backs came in at 11.8 miles so we were more than happy that we hadn’t tried to do the longer loop along Finley Refuge Rd. For a cloudy day this was a great hike with a lot of wildlife sightings and a few flowers. The paths were wide enough that the poison oak was rarely an issue (there was a lot of it starting on the path along the base of Maple Knoll that we had mistakenly taken). The wide paths also would have been useful for social distancing, but we only passed one other hiker all day even though there were a lot of cars parked and driving along Bruce Road.

As we were preparing to leave I mentioned that the only bummer was having not gotten a good look at the egret that morning. When we started to drive across the marsh on Bruce Road I looked over to see if there might be an egret there now and sure enough there was.
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We are looking forward to some of the higher country opening up and melting out so that we can take some poison oak free hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pigeon Butte

Categories
Corvallis Hiking Oregon Trip report Willamette Valley

Finley Wildlife Refuge

Another weekend of snow in the mountains and rain in the valley combined with plans to get together with a friend in town from Mississippi made it a perfect time to finally visit the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge. Located about an hour from Salem the refuge is located just off Highway 99 ten miles south of Corvallis.

There are a number of trails in the refuge, some open year round others from April 1st thru October 31st. We had planned two stops in the refuge with the first being at the Cabell Lodge located near the Cabell Marsh Overlook 1.5 miles after entering the refuge.
Cabell Lodge

From the gravel parking area we followed a pointer for the Cabell Marsh Trail to the overlook.
Cabell Marsh Trail

Cabell Marsh Trail

The covered overlook provided shelter from the steady rain and an opportunity to watch the plethora of ducks on the water and a white egret on the far shore.
Cabell Marsh

Cabell Marsh

Ducks at Cabell Marsh

A seasonal trail continued beyond the overlook which we followed a short distance to a service road where we turned right.
Cabell Marsh Trail

The roadbed/trail soon arrived at the water giving us a closer look at the ducks and a great blue heron.
Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

After a quarter mile on the road we turned left onto the Homer Campbell Boardwalk.
Homer Campbell Boardwalk

The .4 mile boardwalk is open year round with a handy viewing blind located along it’s route.
Viewing blind along the Homer Campbell Boardwalk

Cabell Marsh

Ducks at Cabell Marsh

Beyond the blind the boardwalk passed through a scenic ash forest where lichen hung from the tree limbs.
Homer Campbell Boardwalk

Homer Campbell Boardwalk

At the end of the boardwalk we found ourselves at a small parking area. A short walk up the gravel road here brought us to the park’s main road (the one we’d driven in on) where we turned left. A short uphill walk toward the Cabell Barn brought us to the Fletcher House on our left.
Old barn at Finley Wildlife Refuge

Fletcher House

One of the oldest buildings in Benton County, the Fletcher house is believed to have been constructed in 1855. In 1933 the Carriage House was added when the then owner William F. Cabell remodeled the Fletcher House.
Fletcher House

Interpretive sign at the Fletcher House

From the Fletcher House we followed a very short grassy path back to the Cabell Marsh Overlook parking area. After putting a couple of towels down on our car seats we drove .7 miles further into the refuge turning right at a sign for the Woodpecker Loop Trail. The trail began at a signboard and headed into oak woodlands.
Woodpecker Loop Trailhead

Woodpecker Loop Trail

Our plan was to link the Woodpecker Loop with the Mill Hill Loop via the Inter-Tie Trail so when we arrived at the beginning of the loop we forked right across a footbridge.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

The Woodpecker Loop is named in honor of the 5 different species of woodpeckers that can be found in the area. We were able to check one off the list when we spotted a northern flicker in a tree.
Nothern Flicker

The trail climbed gradually through the oak forest eventually leaving the tress in favor of more open grasslands.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

View from the Woodpecker Loop TrailBald Hill

We stopped at a viewing platform around a large oak tree. On a clear day the tops of the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson are said to be visible but we were unable to verify that.
Viewing platform along the Woodpecker Loop Trail

View from the Woopecker Loop

Just a short distance beyond the platform a new building was being built.
New building along the Woodpecker Loop

The trail then began descending where it reentered the trees and passed over a swale on a long boardwalk.
Woodpecker Loop Trail

When we arrived at the junction with the Inter-Tie Trail we turned right following the pointer for the Mill Hill Trail.
Inter-Tie Trail

This half mile trail led us through the forest and across a gravel road.
Inter-Tie Trail

It wasn’t entirely clear where the Inter-Tie Trail ended and the Mill Hill Trail began but based on it’s half mile length the Inter-Tie Trail either ended at the road crossing or at a trail junction just a bit further along.
Inter-Tie Trail to Mill Hill Trail

The left hand fork led to the Display Pond parking area so we veered to the right. We had just been discussing the fact that it seemed like an area where we might see one of our trail favorites, rough skinned newts, when sure enough we spotted one curled up on the trail.
Roush skinned newt

We stayed right again at a second trail junction, this one coming from the park headquarters and nature store.
Inter-Tie Trail to Mill Hill Trail

Approximately .6 miles from the road crossing we arrived at a four way junction. From the junction the Mill Hill Trail loops around Mill Hill while another path led to several other destinations.
Mill Hill Trail

Trail sign along the Mill Hill Trail

We forked right choosing to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. The forest along the trail changed a number of times on this 1.7 mile loop.
Mill Hill Trail

Mill Hill Trail

Mill Hill Trail

The rain had been steady all day and was only picking up as we made our way around Mill Hill. We stopped briefly at a viewpoint of Gray Creek which looked more like a pond, but for the most part just kept hiking at a quick pace.
Gray Creek from the Mill Hill Trail

We were however on the lookout for newts.
Rough skinned newt

When we arrived at the four way junction we decided to try and go back a slightly different way so we followed the pointer for Cabell Marsh then quickly turned left onto a service road. This road passed behind some refuge buildings before coming to a gate along the parking lot of the headquarters and nature store.
Finely Wildlife Refuge offices and store

A sign on the gate said the area was closed to the public so we probably shouldn’t have come down that particular road but now that we were at the headquarters we walked across the lot toward the Display Pond then turned left at a signboard for the Mill Hill Loop.
Display Pond

Mill Hill Trail

We passed a junction with a trail coming from the Display Pond and continued uphill.
Mill Hill Trail

We wound up meeting up with the Mill Hill/Inter-Tie Trail at the first junction we’d come to after crossing the service road earlier in the day.
Inter-Tie Trail

We turned right, recrossed the service road, and returned to the Woodpecker Loop Trial where we again turned right to complete that loop.
Inter-Tie Trail junction with the Woodpecker Loop Trail

It was about a half mile back to the trailhead from this junction. We were now officially soaked. Our “waterproof” layers were beginning to fail and water was now reaching our base layers. Apparently 2 hours is the limit to the effectiveness of our waterproof garments. It had been a nice morning of hiking and we are now eager to go back on a nicer day when we can really take our time and enjoy the surroundings. The two hikes came in as 1.1 miles and 5.1 miles respectively which we completed in a little over 2 hours due to our quicker than normal pace.

It has certainly been a different year as far as hiking goes for us. It will be interesting to see what the final few hikes we have planned wind up looking like. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge