Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, Cooper Mountain, and Graham Oaks – 05/13/2023

While Spring has largely been a no-show so far this year, Summer decided to make an early appearance with a weekend forecast for temperatures topping 90 degrees. We’ve been lucky to hit 60 so we’ve had no time to adjust to that kind of heat. In the past when temperatures have soared, we’ve opted to adjust our planned hike to minimize the impact. That wasn’t necessary this time though as our planned outing was to take three short hikes, each less than an hour North of Salem.

We started our morning by re-visiting the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. We’d stopped here in March of 2019 (post) but could only hike the River Trail at that time of the year. The longer Wetland Trail loop is closed from October 1st through April 30th so we’d scheduled this May visit to check out the loop. We started from the Roy Rogers Trailhead where we found a nice patch of wildflowers to greet us.
IMG_7765The refuge is open from dawn to dusk. We arrived at a quarter to six to get an early start and avoid being out during the hottest parts of the day.


IMG_7771The patch of wildflowers.

IMG_7773A checker-mallow surrounded by golden paintbrush.

DSCN3325Plectritis amid the golden paintbrush.

We decided to go counterclockwise and forked right across Chicken Creek on a bridge.
IMG_7776We had a pretty good view of Mt. Hood.

The Wetland Trail follows a service road around the refuge. We began seeing wildlife almost immediately with a family of geese and a pair of deer hanging out on some private property adjacent to the refuge.



It was approximately 1.5-miles from the Roy Rogers Trailhead to the Refuge Headquarters and Wildlife Center. It was slow going as we kept stopping to watch the wildlife.


DSCN3369Greater yellowlegs

DSCN3372Mourning dove

DSCN3375Great blue heron

DSCN3380An egret and some ducks

DSCN3394More families of geese

IMG_7789Swallows flying above the Wetland Trail.

Northern shoveler, Scaups, and a buffleheadNorthern shoveler, scaups (leaning toward greater), and a bufflehead.


DSCN3424Northern shoveler

Ruddy duckRuddy duck


DSCN3434Spotted sandpiper

DSCN3439Purple martins


DSCN3456Cinnamon teals

DSCN3446Nutria, one of several of these non-native rodents that we saw.

DSCN3415Nap time (or just a late sleeper).


DSCN3458Song sparrow

DSCN3468Common yellowthroat

IMG_7798Wildlife Center

We took in the view from the overlook next to the Wildlife Center before continuing on with the loop.

DSCN3476Great blue heron watching from a little island.


We followed the Wetland Trail until we came to the River Overlook where we cut over to the River Trail (the trails are less than a yard apart in this area) to check in on the Tualatin River.

DSCN3483Anna’s hummingbird

DSCN3484The same Anna’s hummingbird. When catching light their head/throat is bright pink but appear black when not.

IMG_7810River Overlook

IMG_7812Tualatin River


From the overlook we stuck to the River Trail following it through a short section of forest before rejoining the Wetland Trail.
IMG_7813The Wetland and River Trails running parallel.

DSCN3489Spotted towhee



IMG_7819Pacific waterleaf

IMG_7821Violets and fringecup along the River Trail.

IMG_7823Bleeding heart

IMG_7820We skipped the spur trail to the Ridgetop Overlook since we’d done that on our previous visit.

IMG_7828Chicken Creek

IMG_7829The River Trail meets the Wetland Trail across from the Weland Observation Platform.

We didn’t observe much from the platform on this visit. We continued on with our loop back on the Wetland Trail.

DSCN3506Great white egrets

IMG_7838There were some impressively tall trees along this portion of the loop.

The trail made a 90-degree turn just before another branch of Chicken Creek and headed in a near straight line back toward the Roy Rogers Trailhead.

DSCN3518Another egret

IMG_7842More egrets across Chicken Creek.

DSCN3527Red-winged blackbird

DSCN3530Savannah sparrow


DSCN3537A parsley

While our loop was only 3.6-miles it was packed full of sights, a great start to our morning. From the refuge we made the roughly 10-minute drive to our next stop at the Cooper Mountain Nature Park, yet another park managed by Oregon Metro. The park hosts a little over three miles of trails which start at a nice little playground.

20230513_081204Our planned route was to go right on the Little Prairie Loop to the Cooper Mountain Loop and then stay right on that loop (with a detour to hike the Larkspur Loop) to Blacktail Way. We’d then take Blacktail Way back to the Little Prairie Loop and turn right again to finish that loop and return to the trailhead.

IMG_7856The view from Cooper Mountain Nature Park.

The trail system heads downhill from the trailhead so keep in mind that all hikes here end with on an uphill.

IMG_7849Metro is currently running an odd little trial with very short “photo loops”. Mowed paths just off the main trails for photography. We took the first loop just to check it out and they were not kidding when they said the surface may be uneven.

IMG_7861One of two trial photo loops.

The idea is to limit the negative effects of off trail hiking. It’s an interesting idea but it would be easier if people could follow simple rules. We quickly found ourselves back on the Little Prairie Loop and forking right.

IMG_7864The second trial loop. You can see how short this one is by the signboard just downhill marking its other end.

IMG_7865There were several interpretive signs and benches along the trails.

DSCN3543White-crowned sparrow

DSCN3544Anna’s hummingbird

IMG_7874Star flower

IMG_7878As usual Metro had the trail junctions well marked with little maps on top of the posts. This is the Cooper Mountain Loop junction with the lower end of the Outback Trail.



20230513_083618Tough-leaved iris



IMG_7896Looking back uphill to some wildflowers.


DSCN3555Tomcat clover

DSCN3559Spotted towhee

IMG_7904Bench along a pond filling an old quarry.

IMG_7905The pond. Red-legged frogs apparently breed here. We didn’t see any frogs but there was a mallard hanging out in the brush.

IMG_7907Iris on the hillside above the quarry.

IMG_7911The Larkspur Loop continuing straight from the Cooper Mountain Loop which turns uphill at the junction.

An endangered species of larkspur, pale larkspur (Delphinium leucophaeum), typically blooms in the park in late Spring into June. With everything running late this year we didn’t spot any yet this year as we completed the 0.7-mile lollipop loop.
IMG_7914Prior to the loop the Larkspur Loop dips to cross a creek in the trees.

IMG_7915The little creek.

IMG_7918View from the Larkspur Loop.

IMG_7919While watching for the larkspur I noticed these giant blue-eyed Mary.

We returned to the Cooper Mountain Loop which made a steep climb to its junction with Blacktail Way.

IMG_7921Blacktail Way to the right.

IMG_7922Map at the junction.

Blacktail Way climbed more gradually on its way to the Little Prairie Loop.
IMG_7926The “earphone” next to the bench here was neat. There was also one at the trailhead and they really allowed you to isolate the sounds of the woods.

IMG_7927The Little Prairie Loop.

We turned right onto the loop and then quickly detoured to the Little Prairie Overlook.

IMG_7931The pale larkspur also grows in this area but again we were too early.

IMG_7933These were the only woodland-stars we spotted.

After checking out Little Prairie we finished the loop and returned to our car. This stop came to 3.1 miles with 300′ of elevation gain.

From Cooper Mountain we drove 18 miles south to our final stop of the day at Graham Oaks Nature Park. Another one of Metro’s parks Graham Oaks also hosts approximately three miles of trails. Unlike many of the other Metro parks we’ve visited recently this one allows bikes and dogs (on leash) albeit limited to the Tonquin Trail.


Our planned route here was another counterclockwise loop starting on the Tonquin Trail. We would follow that trail to the hiker only Oak Woodland Walk and then turn onto Coyote Way then take the Legacy Creek Trail returning to Coyote Way just before its end at the Tonquin Trail. Then we would simply follow the Tonquin Trail back to the trailhead.

Despite this being our third stop, the early start had gotten us here shortly after 10am, it was already over 70 degrees when we set off on the Tonquin Trail. Luckily for us there was an occasional breeze that helped cool things off a bit.
IMG_7941Heading toward Acron Plaza on the Tonquin Trail.

IMG_7944Interpretive sign at Acorn Plaza.

There were large amounts of large camas blooming along the trail along with yellow buttercups and some patches of lupine.
IMG_7948Lupine and buttercups


IMG_7953Meadow checker-mallow

We detoured to Elder Plaza at a trail marker.

IMG_7956The “elder” oak is between 150-200 years old.



DSCN3570We watched this American Kestral hover on a near vertical line for what felt like quite a while. It eventually dove and attempted to catch something in the grass. We couldn’t tell if it had been successful.

We continued down the Tonquin Trail and made a second detour to visit the Wetland Overlook.



IMG_7969Mylitta crescent

We made a third detour when we reached a 4-way junction with the Oak Woodland Walk and Arrowhead Creek Trails. We turned right onto the Arrowhead Creek Trail to see what the creek might look like since we could see a little footbridge from the junction.

IMG_7972Footbridge over Arrowhead Creek.

There wasn’t really any water flowing in the creek bed and we turned around after crossing and returned to the 4-way junction where we crossed the Tonquin Trail onto the Oak Woodland Walk.


IMG_7977The Lycaenidae family of butterflies remains a mystery to me. This appears to be an Eastern Tailed Blue based on the ventral spots.

IMG_7981Snow in the Cascade foothills. If you look really closely behind the bigger snow patch to the far-right, you can just barely make out Mt. Jefferson.

We turned onto Coyote Way and quickly spotted several species of birds.

DSCN3572Northern flicker

DSCN3580This scrub jay would not come out from behind the oak leaves.

Coyote Way eventually entered some trees and crossed a boardwalk.

IMG_7986There was a lot of candy flower beneath the trees.


We turned onto the Legacy Creek Trail and found ourselves under a much denser canopy of trees. This extra shade made this feel like the coolest section of trail we’d been on all day which was welcome because it was now over 80 degrees in the Sun.


IMG_7990Mushrooms along the Legacy Creek Trail.

IMG_7992Violets, candy flower and the invasive herb robert (pink).

We left the trees and quickly arrived back at Coyote Way where we took a right followed by another right on the Tonquin Trail after 200′.
IMG_7996Coming up to Coyote Way.

IMG_7999Back on the Tonquin Trail and heading for the trailhead.

This was our shortest stop of the day coming in at just 2.7 miles. For the day we logged 9.4 miles with approximately 400′ of cumulative elevation gain, primarily from our stop at Cooper Mountain. These were all enjoyable stops and each provided a different experience. Happy Trails!

Tualatin River Refuge
Cooper Mountain
Graham Oaks

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 04/15/2021

Having visited the Ankeny and William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuges on Tuesday (post) and Wednesday (post) respectively I visited the third refuge comprising the Willamette Valley Complex, Baskett Slough on Thursday. For the final in this trifecta I had the chance to hike with my Father so I picked him up just after 6am and off we went. Like the other two refuges in the complex I had visited Baskett Slough before, most recently in May of last year (post) during the initial COVID lock down when many places weren’t open and we were trying to stay close to home. We began our hike at the Baskett Butte Trailhead.

IMG_2292Mt. Jefferson from the trailhead.

The Rich Guadagno Memorial Loop Trail begins here and we followed it uphill to the start of the loop where we forked left continuing uphill to a second junction with the side trail to the Rich Guadagno Viewing Platform. We were just a couple of weeks earlier than Heather and my visit from last year but it made a big difference. The hill had been covered with wildflowers during that hike but there were just a few out now.

IMG_2299A few lupine and buttercups


IMG_2308Castilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush


IMG_2314A few little flowers starting to open up.

IMG_2323View from the deck.

IMG_2329Western meadowlark

We returned to the loop and continued into the woods on the side of Baskett Butte where we kept a streak of mine alive by spotting deer in this area.



There weren’t nearly as many flowers here as there had been in the woods at Finley NWR but a few fawn lilies and toothworts were blooming.


The rangers had been busy cleaning up after the ice storm based on some large piles of debris but it also appeared there was more work to do.


We turned left at a sign for the Moffiti/Morgan Loop Trail and headed downhill toward Moffiti Marsh.


IMG_2368Camas pretending to be part of a lupine plant.

IMG_2374White crowned sparrow


IMG_2385Lesser scaup

IMG_2389American wigeons

IMG_2397Pied billed grebe



Red-winged blackbirds

IMG_2424Savannah sparrow

We turned right along a path parallel to Smithfield Road following it to a small trailhead (where Heather and I started the 2020 hike). The fences across Smithfield Road were popular with the feathered community.


IMG_2430A robin, a western bluebird and swallows

IMG_2435A green winged teal and a cinnamon teal in a small marsh.

We took the path from the trailhead to Morgan Lake where there were a lot of ducks doing their best to stay as far away from us as possible.

IMG_2439This scrub jay wasn’t shy.

IMG_2448Neither was this serious looking spotted towhee

IMG_2443Norther shovelers heading to the opposite side of the lake.

IMG_2453A bufflehead and some lesser scaups

IMG_2455Canada goose flyover

IMG_2458Mallard pair

After passing the lake we got a wild hair and instead of following the loop up around the north side of Baskett Butte we decided to stay on a fainter grassy track around the eastern side of the butte.
IMG_2462Old out building below Baskett Butte.

This seemed to be a good way to avoid the elevation gain of going up and over the saddle on Baskett Butte but along the way the grassy track disappeared into a field. There was another track heading uphill toward the butte but we were set on not climbing so we sallied forth.
IMG_2463Not only was this uphill but we didn’t know for sure where it might lead.

IMG_2464Along the field we went.

On the bright side our little adventure led us to the only blooming checkermallow we’d seen all morning.


At a row of vegetation if briefly appeared we might be turning back but a break in the brush provided us a way through (it appeared to be a popular route with the resident deer and elk.
IMG_2477Looking uphill along the row of brush.

On the other side of the brush we found a huge flock of geese (or several smaller flocks that had merged)

IMG_2476An extremely small portion of the geese.

We veered right away from the geese not wanting to be the cause of what we could only imagine would have been quite a commotion and cut across another field directly to the trailhead which was now visible.
IMG_2480Baskett Butte from the field.

Our route may have actually been a little shorter than if we had stayed on the trail as my GPS showed 4.8 miles while the route as described by Sullivan is 4.9 miles. It also saved a little bit of elevation gain and allowed us to see a little part of the refuge that we hadn’t before. It would have been pretty ugly though if it had rained recently though as I can only imagine those fields would be muddy messes. While not quite as exciting as the other two refuges Baskett Slough has always managed to deliver wildlife sightings and is definitely worth a visit. Happy Trails!

Our route with the “highlighted” section showing the off-trail route around Baskett Butte

Flickr: Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge

Corvallis Hiking Oregon Willamette Valley

Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop – 4/14/2021

A day after visiting the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (post) I headed out to the William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge for another attempt at spotting wildlife. Heather once again was working so I was on my own again. We had done two previous hikes here, one in 2017 visiting the Cabell Marsh and hiking the Woodpecker and Mill Hill Loops and the other in 2020 starting near Pigeon Butte. My plan was to combine most of those two hikes and add a few new short stretches to make a big loop through the refuge starting from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead. One item to note is that some of the refuge is closed from November 1st through March 31st making this loop impossible during the seasonal closure.

The refuge is open from dawn to dusk and I arrived at the trailhead just as the Sun was beginning to rise behind Mt. Jefferson.



From the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead I walked down to the refuge road and followed it to the left back to the Cabell Barn then turned right on a road at a season trail sign for the Cabell Marsh Overlook. I followed the roadbed to the Cabell Lodge and past the overlook down to Cabell Marsh.
IMG_1824Mt. Hood from the refuge road

IMG_1826The Three Sisters from the road

IMG_1832Yellow paintbrush

IMG_1841Cabell Barn

img src=”” width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_1860″>Cabell Lodge

IMG_1852Rabbit at the lodge

IMG_1865Cabell Marsh Overlook

IMG_1871White crowned sparrows

IMG_1878Deer in a field near Cabell Marsh

IMG_1879Cabell Marsh (the marsh had been drained when we visited in 2020)

I slowly walked along the dike at the marsh using binoculars to try and identify how many different ducks were out on the water.
IMG_1880Norther shovelers

IMG_1887American coots

IMG_1889Ring-necked ducks


IMG_1908Black pheobe

IMG_1910American wigeons

IMG_1915_stitchCabell Marsh

IMG_1921Canada geese

Wood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pie billed grebeWood duck, ring-necked ducks and a pied billed grebe

IMG_1951More northern shovelers

IMG_1953Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1955Green winged teal


At a junction on the SW end of the Marsh I stayed left following a roadbed past a huge flock of geese and some ponds to a junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail.





IMG_1991Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2003Junction with the Pigeon Butte Trail (grassy track heading uphill)

Originally I had planned on skipping the half mile trail to the top of Pigeon Butte but it was a beautiful morning and it had been too cloudy to see much on our hike in 2020 so I turned uphill an tagged the summit before returning to my originally planned loop.
IMG_2004Tortoiseshell butterfly

IMG_2012Spotted towhee serenade

IMG_2020Bewick’s wren


IMG_2027Mourning dove

IMG_2029Camas blooming near the summit

IMG_2034View from Pigeon Butte

IMG_2036Scrub jay spotted on the way down.

IMG_2038One of the “blue” butterflies, maybe a silvery blue

IMG_2043Acorn woodpecker

When I got back down to the junction I continued south on the Pigeon Butte Trail to a junction at a pond below Cheadle Barn.
IMG_2050Looking back at Pigeon Butte, the yellow paintbrush was starting its bloom on the hillside.




Instead of heading for the barn and the Cheadle Marsh Trail which we had used on our 2020 visit I went right following a roadbed to Bruce Road across from the Field 12 Overlook.
IMG_2068Looking back at Pigeon Butte and the Cheadle Barn

IMG_2066Western bluebird

IMG_2070Bruce Rd and a sign for the overlook.

IMG_2071Swallows at the overlook

IMG_2075Mary’s Peak and Pigeon Butte from the overlook.

IMG_2076Mary’s Peak (post)

I then walked west on Bruce Road to the trailhead for the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trails passing the Mitigation Wetland along the way. I paused at the wetland to watch a great blue heron and egret along with a number of ducks in.
IMG_2083Ground squirrel on Bruce Rd.


IMG_2085Western bluebird

IMG_2088Mitigation Wetland



IMG_2098heron flying by the egret

IMG_2125Northern shoveler

IMG_2126Green winged teals

IMG_2129Trailhead off of Bruce Road

I turned off of Bruce Road at the trailhead and followed the grassy track to a fork where I veered left on the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail led briefly through the woods before arriving at the Beaver Pond where I startled a heron and a few ducks but an egret and a few other ducks stuck around.
IMG_2132Ground squirrel

IMG_2136Entering the woods

IMG_2142Giant white wakerobin


IMG_2162Startled heron

IMG_2169Egret and a cinnamon teal pair and maybe an American wigeon

As I was watching the egret I noticed something else in the water but I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a log/rock in disguise. Even with binoculars I could decide but after looking at the pictures it was in fact a nutria that appeared to be napping.

The egret finally flew off and I continued on to a junction just beyond the pond where I turned left heading slightly uphill toward the Refuge Headquarters and the Mill Hill Loop.


At a signed 4-way junction I followed a pointer for the Mill Hill Trail to the left but not before I checked out a patch of pink along the trail straight ahead.

IMG_2188The pink turned out to be shooting stars.

I hiked the Mill Hill Loop (which led back to the junction right past the shooting stars) and then turned left on the Intertie Trail. The Mill Hill Loop was full of surprises with a number of different wildflowers blooming and a turtle sighting. The turtle was on a log in a wetland quite a bit below a bench along the trail and I only spotted it with the help of the binoculars but that counts.

IMG_2201Bleeding heart

IMG_2220One of many fairy slippers


IMG_2218It took some work to get the camera to stop focusing on the brush in the foreground.



IMG_2238Fawn lilies

IMG_2244Back at the junction and onto the Intertie Trail

I followed the Intertie Trail to the Woodpecker Loop ignoring side trails to the Refuge Headquarters.


IMG_2256Service berry

IMG_2257The Woodpecker Loop

I turned left opting to head uphill on a slightly longer route back to my car so that I could check out the view from a hilltop viewing structure.
IMG_2259Norther flicker along the Woodpecker Loop

IMG_2263Amphibian pond and interpretive kiosk.

IMG_2267Viewing structure


IMG_2272Mt. Jefferson

IMG_2273The Three Sisters

I watched a pair of raptors chase each other around but couldn’t get a clear enough view to tell what kind they were (maybe Cooper’s hawks?).

IMG_2279This was the best shot I could get at 40x zoom with the sun in front of me.

After accepting that a clearer picture wasn’t possible I left the shelter and hiked downhill to my waiting car. While I only passed two other hikers on the trails there were a number of folks at the trailhead either just arriving or getting ready to leave. My loop with the mile detour up and down Pigeon Butte came in at 11.3 miles. The great thing about Finley is the diversity it offers with forest, woodlands, marshes and fields each supporting different plants and wildlife. The possibility of long, medium and short hikes is also nice. The one drawback is that there is a lot of poison oak in the area but they keep the trails wide enough that it really isn’t much of a problem.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: Finley Wildlife Refuge Loop

Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Willamette Valley

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge – 04/13/2021

I found myself with some time off that Heather does not and after spending the first day getting the car serviced and receiving my first dose of COVID vaccine (YAY) I spent the next morning exploring the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. We had visited once before in 2014 for a short hike described by Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades” guidebook (post). This time I hoped to explore more of the refuge by hiking some of the dike trails that are open from April 1st to September 30th. I started my morning at the Eagle Marsh parking area on Buena Vista Road.

There is a nice kiosk there overlooking the marsh from which quite a few ducks and geese were visible.



IMG_1370Canada goose and mallards

IMG_1373American coot

IMG_1375Ring-necked ducks (I’m not sure all the females are the same.)

IMG_1392Geese flying over Eagle Marsh as the Sun rises.

There was more vegetation at the southern end of the marsh where robins and blackbirds were singing.


At the end of Eagle Marsh the dike split and I had intended to stay straight (the Refuge trail map appeared to show a possible loop around Willow Marsh but other maps do not show a dike at the southern end) but a sign there announced that dike was closed due to active nesting so I turned left instead.
IMG_1415Willow Marsh

There were a lot of ducks in Willow Marsh but they were keeping a safe distance from me.
IMG_1429A bufflehead and mallards

IMG_1432Mallards and ring-necked ducks

I then turned right along a dike passing between Willow and Teal Marshes.
IMG_1435Teal Marsh to the left of the dike.

It was more of the same treatment from the ducks in Teal Marsh.

IMG_1454Mallards an northern shovelers


While the ducks stayed away I had better luck with the smaller birds.
IMG_1468Spotted towhee

IMG_1473Red-winged blackbird

IMG_1476Female red-winged blackbird


IMG_1506Yellow-rumped warbler

At the end of Teal Marsh I turned around and headed back past the ducks.

IMG_1507Geese coming in for a landing on Teal Marsh

IMG_1516Northern flicker

IMG_1517Green-winged teal

IMG_1520Ring-necked ducks and a bufflehead pair

IMG_1524Scrub jay

IMG_1541Pie billed grebe at Eagle Marsh

The out-and-back was a nice, albeit windy, 3.2 mile walk with no elevation gain. From Eagle Marsh I turned left (SW) onto Buena Vista Road and drove a quarter mile to a small pullout at a green gate.

From here I planned on following another dike past Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh to Wintel Road and then follow that road briefly to the Rail Trail Loop Area which is where we had been on our first visit. A bald eagle flew over Mohoff Pond just as I set off.

Mohoff Pond was busy with a number of different ducks but primarily they seemed to be northern shovelers.



IMG_1580I didn’t see it when I took the picture but it appears there is an eagle on the ground in the distance here.

The activity wasn’t only at Mohoff Pond though as a handful of egrets were mostly out of view in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks.
IMG_1559One of the egrets taking off.

IMG_1589Brewer’s blackbird on a tree along the railroad tracks.

I stayed right at a junction with a dike running between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.
IMG_1591Pintail Marsh ahead on the left.

IMG_1761The dike between Mohoff Pond and Pintail Marsh.

IMG_1592Ducks at Pintail Marsh

There was a gravel parking area at the southern end of Pintail Marsh where I hopped onto Wintel Road and headed left following the narrow shoulder for .3 miles to another green gate on the right hand side of the road.
IMG_1596Pintail Marsh

IMG_1736Looking back at the gate and Wintel Road

I followed a grassy track which split 100 feet from the gate and turned right (left would have led me to the Rail Trail Parking area). The path led past a little standing water before leading onto a dike along Wood Duck Pond.

IMG_1601Yellow legs


I passed the Rail Trail Boardwalk and stayed on the dike now retracing our steps from our first visit.

The dike turned south wrapping around Dunlin Pond.
IMG_1613The boardwalk across Dunlin Pond from the dike.

IMG_1639Ring-necked ducks

IMG_1634Ring-necked ducks taking off.


IMG_1646Common yellowthroat

IMG_1641Hawk and a sparrow

At the far end of Dunlin Pond the dike split again at Killdeer Marsh. Here I turned right and looped around Killdeer Marsh.
IMG_1653Killdeer Marsh


IMG_1660Another yellow legs?

IMG_1663Mustard along Killdeer Marsh

IMG_1669A killdeer amid ducks at Killdeer Marsh

The dike didn’t quite go all the way around the marsh but it was easy walking along the edge of a field to get back to the dike on the north side of the marsh. The only issue was a 5 foot wide wet area between the field and dike where try as I might my shoes wound up wet. Once I was back on the dike I had the choice to go left back along Killdeer Marsh or a different dike veering off to the right along South Pond. I chose right and followed this dike around the end of South Pond.

IMG_1683South Pond

IMG_1688Cinnamon Teal in South Pond

The dike led me to one of two actual trails in the Refuge, the Rail Trail.

IMG_1711Damaged trees from the ice storm earlier this year.

IMG_1712Turkey vulture


I turned right at the boardwalk and followed it over the water to the dike on the far side.



IMG_1728American coots

IMG_1731I think this is a ring-necked duck and a lesser scaup.

At the dike I turned right and retraced my steps back to Witnel Road and headed back toward Pintail Marsh. Instead of going to the gravel parking lot that I had been at earlier I left the road at the Pintail/Egret Marsh Boardwalk Trailhead.

I followed this short boardwalk along and over Bashaw Creek to a bird blind.

Again on the trail map it appeared that the boardwalk connect to a dike at Egret Marsh but it instead it dead ended at the blind.
IMG_1742The dike from the blind.

I turned around and headed back to Witnel Road a little dissapointed but then I spotted a little green frog on a log and all was good.

When I got back to the lot a Pintail Marsh I turned right thinking I would follow the dike on the other side Pintail Marsh and Mohoff Pond.

I stayed right when I passed another dike that allowed for a loop around Frog Marsh and stopped at a photo blind (reservable from 10/1-3/31).

At the junction with the other end of the Frog Marsh Loop I ran into another obstacle, more active nesting had closed the dike along Pintail Marsh so I did the loop around Frog Marsh and back to the gravel lot I went.

I retraced my steps on the dike along the west side of Pintail Marsh before turning right on the dike between the marsh and Mohoff Pond.
IMG_1756Killdeer on the dike.

IMG_1759A whole lot of geese in the air ahead.

I turned left at a four way junction where the closed dike joined from between Pintail and Egret Marshes.

I was now on a dike between Mohoff Pond (left) and Mallard Marsh (right).

Ducks and geese were everywhere as I trudged directly into the wind along the dike.
IMG_1776Green-winged teals

IMG_1784Northern shovelers

IMG_1781Canada geese

IMG_1788Another green-winged teal

IMG_1790Various ducks

IMG_1796Northern pintails


IMG_1806A green-winged teal and a yellow legs

My second stop wound up coming to 7.5 miles making for a 10.7 mile day. I only passed two people all day and saw a lot of different birds which made for a great hike. If I were a more patient person I would have sat at a blind or two and waited for some closer encounters but I prefer to keep moving so I have to settle for the long distance shots more often than not. Either way Ankeny is a great place to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Ankeny Wildlife Refuge