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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.
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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=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51116225393_9feb61f994_c.jpg” 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_1892Buffleheads

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

IMG_1956Robin

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.
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IMG_1983Killdeer

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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_2022Madrone

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.

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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_2080Sparrows

IMG_2085Western bluebird

IMG_2088Mitigation Wetland

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IMG_2103Egret

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_2144Fairybells

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.
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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.
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IMG_2181Candyflower

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.
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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_2196Iris

IMG_2201Bleeding heart

IMG_2220One of many fairy slippers

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

IMG_2230Buttercups

IMG_2232Violets

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.
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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

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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?).
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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

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