Categories
Hiking Medford/Ashland Area Oregon Trip report

Kenneth Denman Wildlife Area – 05/28/2022

Rain was forecast for the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend so we decided to visit the Kenneth Denman Wildlife Area. While Sullivan mentions the 0.7 Denman Nature Loop in the “more hikes” section of his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Southern Oregon & Norther California” we were basing our hike on various postings by Boots on the Trail. Permits are required to park at the trailheads accessing the area and take two forms. To park at the wildlife area trailheads a $10 ODFW Wildlife Area parking permit is required. A cheaper (and easier to purchase) option is available by parking at TouVille Recreation Area managed by Oregon State Parks. The one drawback to this option is that TouVille opens at 7am while the wildlife area opens at 4am. Typically we try and get started as early as possible but we had been taking it easy (for us anyway) following our Wednesday hike at Mule Mountain (post) so a 7am start sounded just fine.

We purchased a permit from the self-service kiosk and parked at the end of park near the start of the quarter mile interpretive nature trail.
IMG_1395

A large tree trunk between the parking lot and outhouse is filled with holes made by acron woodpeckers who then jam acorns inside to save for later.
IMG_1393

IMG_1396Acorns in some of the holes.

IMG_1398On the nature trail.

The trail crossed a small stream on a footbridge which would be the way to go if you want to do the loop clockwise but we chose to go counterclockwise so it would hopefully be easier to follow the route described by VanMarmot from April this year (post).
IMG_1401The bridge

We turned right at the bridge and after passing through a grassy area we picked up a clearer trail.
IMG_1402

We followed this path to a “Y” at a fence marking the boundary of the Denman Wildlife Area.
IMG_1404Camas

IMG_1408Ash-throated flycatcher

IMG_1409Srub jay

IMG_1411

IMG_1415

Passed through the fence and onto the Denman Interpretive Trail.
IMG_1416

IMG_1423Acorn woodpecker

IMG_1425

IMG_1427Death camas and vetch

One a several ponds along the trail fed by Military Slough.
IMG_1428

IMG_1431A second pond with Upper Table Rock (post) behind.

One thing we quickly picked up on was that the grass and under story had gone through quite a bit of growth between the April 6th trip report and now. This included plenty of poison oak which now often crowded the trail in brushier sections.
IMG_1437

The trail left the trees and climbed a hill where views opened up.
IMG_1441

IMG_1448Mt. McLoughlin

We got a little confused on the hillside where several paths went NE and one SW to a bench which we wandered over to before choosing one of the NE paths.
IMG_1453Common madia with Lower Table Rock (post) in the background.

IMG_1455Wildflowers near the bench.

IMG_1456Upper Table Rock

IMG_1462The viewpoint bench.

I think we chose a different one than VanMarmot had but the end result was the same as we wound up on duck boards passing another pond along Military Slough which we recognized from a photo.
IMG_1470

IMG_1473Wood duck

Not far from this pond the trail climbed to TouVille Road.
IMG_1481

IMG_1482Denman Trail at TouVille Road.

Following VanMarmot’s April hike we turned right along the road looking for a “very faded road” that headed north across the Agate Desert.
IMG_1484Mt. McLoughlin

IMG_1485Upper Table Rock from TouVille Road.

IMG_1486A swallow on a fence post with Mt. McLoughlin behind.

IMG_1490Swallow

IMG_1491Yet another pond along Military Slough.

IMG_1499A kingbird, most likely western.

IMG_1500A pair of hawks near the pond.

We found a faint road which we assumed was the one we were looking for and turned left onto it.
IMG_1503

In the pictures we’d seen from early April the old road was faint but visible passing through the short grass but that grass had grown since then making the road even harder to pick out.
IMG_1507

20220528_081438I I believe this is a paintbrush, possibly Castilleja tenuis – hairy Indian paintbrush.

IMG_1509Mourning doves

We wound up losing track of the roadbed as we neared a small depression where a seasonal creek supported more brush and trees. We could see from VanMarmot’s track that they had turned SE following along this seasonal creek before crossing it and turning back to the NW. While it hadn’t rained on us yet walking through the tall wet grass here provided enough water to soak our lower halves and we both had run ins with turkeys that startled us when they burst out of the grass near us.
IMG_1510Looking back at Upper Table Rock with the stream bed in the trees/brush to the right.

We eventually reached the end of the thick brush and made our loop near a couple of old fence posts.
IMG_1511

Now that we were on the other side of the stream bed we picked up a much clearer trail.
IMG_1512

IMG_1513Mt. Ashland (post) peaking through a hole in the clouds.

IMG_1515Mt. Ashland

IMG_1521

IMG_1522Ookow

We veered left sticking as close to the stream bed as possible passing through a fence with an orange “Safety Zone” sign.
IMG_1523

We wound up on an old gravel road that passed by a dozen old bunkers left over from when the area had been a WWII training camp. VanMarmot had followed a horse trail out to TouVille Road and then doubled back along this gravel road but it wasn’t entirely clear if they had been on this road briefly before picking up the horse trail or if we had missed it. We did see a trail leading uphill near where we had arrived at the road but that trail had quite a bit of poison oak hanging over it and not being used to hiking with it so prevalent and also not knowing for sure if it was the right trail we decided to stick to the gravel road and follow it to TouVille Road.
IMG_1525

IMG_1526Bunker 6

IMG_1538Jack rabbit

IMG_1542Unsure what type of bird this is.

IMG_1544

IMG_1547Trailhead just off TouVille Road.

We couldn’t tell where exactly the horse trail was here either so we simply back-tracked along the road only this time taking a fork to the left to visit a few more bunkers.
IMG_1549The fork where we went left.

IMG_1554Passing another bunker.

IMG_1559Lupine

We passed a small trail leaving the road but didn’t realize that it was the trail we were looking for and wound up completing a small loop before realizing our mistake. We back-tracked again and left the road on the trial we’d seen.
IMG_1565

IMG_1568White tritellia

This trail quickly forked and it took us a few minutes of map consulting to decide we should take the left hand forked vs climbing up the small slope on the right.
IMG_1569

This was the path we wanted as it passed through a row of old oak trees.
IMG_1576

We popped onto another gravel roadbed and followed it to the right looking for a trail heading north (left) that would take us toward Little Butte Creek. We completely missed that turn and wound up at a parking area off Agate Road.
IMG_1579

IMG_1583

We considered our options and decided to walk north along Agate Road to another pullout next to the creek.
IMG_1597

Things got interesting here. Trails led west along the creek here, presumably used mostly by fishermen but not too often from the looks of it. They were very overgrown causing us to make some contorted movements in an attempt to avoid contacting any of the poison oak in the area.
IMG_1598Occasional open areas were followed by thick brush with poison oak hidden among the other vegetation.

IMG_1602This section at least had hoof prints.

We popped out onto the gravel road that we had followed to Agate Road and were given a brief respite from dodging poison oak.
IMG_1607

We turned right and in 100 yards, when the road veered left stayed straight to follow a path to Little Butte Creek.
20220528_100551More ookow

IMG_1615Headed down to the creek.

IMG_1617

IMG_1618Little Butte Creek

20220528_101825Bachelor button near the creek.

20220528_101854Another bachelor button

We returned to the road and continued west which soon ended. There were two trails to choose from the furthest from the creek having a sign naming it the Butte Creek Trail.
IMG_1628

Given this trail was at least named we chose it and followed it for a mile to TouVille Road. There was plenty of poison oak to avoid along this stretch as well but we also spotted a great horned owl that kept an eye on us while we took some pictures.
IMG_1630

IMG_1633Nookta rose surrounded by poison oak.

20220528_102745Don’t touch!

IMG_1639Maiden fly

IMG_1643

IMG_1655

IMG_1658Sign for a Paddle Wheel Trail which we couldn’t really see in the grass.

IMG_1659

IMG_1662TouVille Road

We crossed the road back onto the Denman Nature Trail and followed it a quarter mile to the TouVille Recreation Area Interpretive Nature Trail.
IMG_1663

IMG_1665Bench near the confluence of Little Butte Creek and the Rogue River.

IMG_1674Rogue River on the left and Little Butte Creek on the right.

20220528_110503Pale flax

IMG_1676Exiting the Denman Wildlife Area.

IMG_1679The Rogue River along the TouVille Interpretive Nature Trial.

IMG_1680Back to the bridge near the parking area.

The route that we had tried to follow would have been a 6 mile irregularly shaped loop. With several mistakes requiring extra hiking we managed to turn it into a 7.2 mile hike that only resembled our original plan.

Despite the missteps (and dodging poison oak) this was a fun hike with a lot of wildlife sightings including one deer. The rain that had been forecast didn’t materialize until later in the day and we only dealt with a couple of brief periods of sprinkles. Surprisingly we saw no ticks despite all the hiking through tall grass so that was a big plus. We wound up trying the Thai Bistro that evening for dinner which we enjoyed and provided another night of leftovers for the next day after our planned hike at Applegate Lake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Denman Wildlife Area

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Tualatin HIlls Nature Park, Tualatin River NWR, and Willamette Mission State Park

For our March outing we decided to stick relatively close to home and visit three nearby hikeable areas. Our first stop, and furthest from Salem at just under an hour away, was at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton.

We started from the large parking lot at the Tualatin Hills Nature Center on SW Millikan Way.
Tualatin Hills Nature Center

The Nature Center is currently open from 8:30am-5pm M-F and 9am-5pm Sat. & Sun. while the park itself is open everyday from dawn to dusk. We arrived at dawn and set off on the paved Vine Maple Trail between the Nature Center and restrooms.
Vine Maple Trail

We quickly turned right onto the signed Oak Trail which was also paved.
Oak Trail

In a third of a mile we detoured briefly at a sign for the Tadpole Ponds.
Tadpole Pond

Although we didn’t see any tadpoles, or other wildlife here, the sounds of birds had not stopped all morning so we knew there were plenty of animals around. We returned to the Oak Trail which passed by Cattail Marsh on the second of three boardwalks.
Oak Trail

Cattail Marsh

Beyond the marsh we soon came to the third boardwalk which crossed over Cedar Mill Creek.
Boardwalk and viewing platforms along the Oak Trail

Cedar Mill Creek

One of the many birds that we’d been listening to was kind enough to pose for a moment as we stood on the boardwalk.
Sparrow

On the far side of the boardwalk was a trail junction where the Oak Trail veered right to the Merlo Rd/158th Ave Max light rail station. To the left was the Old Wagon Trail, a dirt path closed to bikes.
Old Wagon Trail

We followed this trail through a forest that was starting to show signs of Spring for a third of a mile to a junction with the Mink Path.
Old Wagon Trail

Blossoms along the Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail junction with the Mink PathTrail pointer at the Mink Path junction. We appreciated the fact that all of the junctions were signed and those signs were easy to read but placed in such a way that they were unobtrusive.

The Mink Path is a .1 mile connector between the Old Wagon Trail and Vine Maple Trail allowing for a shorter loop back to the Nature Center. We opted to stay on the Old Wagon Trail though and continued to the start of another boardwalk where we stopped so I could try and take a photo of a robin that was hopping around on the trail. As I was working on getting a picture Heather spotted a deer just a bit off the trail.
Deer along the Old Wagon Trail (there really is one out ther)Can you see the deer?

I thought she was seeing things but then I noticed it move.
Doe along the Old Wagon Trail (again it is there)How about now?

She turned and watched us as I attempted to get the camera to focus on her and not the branches in the foreground.
Doe in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Not far from the deer we spotted a squirrel trying to become one with a limb.
Squirrel

At a “Y” in the boardwalk we veered left keeping on the Old Wagon Trail until we reached a junction with the Vine Maple Trail a total of .4 miles beyond the Mink Path junction. We turned left onto the Vine Maple Trail and then took a right at a pointer for the Lily Pond.

A short path led down to the pond but before we had reached it a pair of wood ducks took flight and landed in a nearby tree.
Wood Ducks

As we were admiring the wood ducks a pileated woodpecker was busy with its breakfast.
Pileated woodpecker

We eventually made it down to the pond where a few ducks remained in the water including what appeared to be a pair of gadwalls.
Interpretive sign at the Lily Pond

Lily Pond

Gadwalls

There were also signs of beaver activity but we’ve yet to actually see one in the wild.
Beaver work

After visiting the pond we returned to the Vine Maple Trail which was now paved and followed it past its junction with the Mink Path and across Cedar Mill Creek.
Vine Maple Trail

Vine Maple Trail crossing Cedar Mill Creek

Shortly after crossing the creek we faced another choice. The Nature Center lay a third of a mile away via the Vine Maple Trail but more loop options were available by taking the Elliot Path.
Trail sign in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

We took the .1 mile Elliot Path to a “T” shaped junction with the Big Fir Trail. Here again was a choice. Left headed back toward the Nature Center while right would take us to the Chickadee and Ash Loops and a short spur to Big Pond. We headed right and then turned left onto the spur to Big Pond.
Big Pond

Big Pond

There were plenty of ducks here as well. It appeared that most were mallards and green-winged teals.
Mallard and Green-winged teals

We returned to the Big Fir Trail and continued on crossing Beaverton Creek before arriving at a four way junction.
Beaverton CreekBeaverton Creek

More choices! The Big Fir Trail kept straight while the Chickadee Loop was to the right and the Ash Loop to the left. We began by heading right on the quarter mile Chickadee Loop which had a nice long section of boardwalk.
Chickadee Loop

After the quarter mile we were back at the Big Fir Trail where we turned right briefly before making a left onto the Ash Loop. The Ash Loop passed some wetlands where a pair of Canada Geese were enjoying the morning.
Wetlands along the Ash Loop

Canada geese

After .3 miles on the Ash Loop we found ourselves back at the four way junction where we turned right and recrossed Beaverton Creek and returned to the junction with the Elliot Path. Staying straight on the Big Fir Trail for just .05 miles we then turned right onto the .2 mile Trillium Loop. Oddly we didn’t see many of signs of trilliums along this short loop but we had seen several beginning to bloom along other trails. After completing the Trillium Loop we turned right again onto the Big Fir Trail for another .1 miles to the start of the half mile Ponderosa Loop.

We took the Ponderosa Loop where we spotted more trillium and our first wood violets of the year.
Trillium

Wood violet

At the end of the Ponderosa Loop we were once again turning right onto the Big Fir Trail. This time it was for less than a tenth of mile and then we were back at the Vine Maple Trail. Several spotted towhees and a couple of chickadees were foraging near this junction. The chickadees wouldn’t sit still but the towhees were a little more cooperative.
Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

A right turn onto the Vine Maple Trail followed by another .2 miles of hiking brought us back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. The total distance for our hike with all the extra loops was still just 4.2 miles. When we had arrived we were only the second car but the lot was now full as it was just a bit after 9am. We had passed the first volunteer led tour as we were finishing up the along the Ponderosa Trail and another group was preparing to set off shortly.

One of the reasons we had chosen to start our day with this hike was that we knew the park would get busy as the morning progressed which isn’t a bad thing but we always prefer to avoid the crowds when possible. It really was a first rate park though so the popularity is warranted.

We left the nature park and headed for our next stop, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d found this hike in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide and decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor Center along Highway 99W. The majority of hikeable paths in the refuge are closed from October 1st trough April 30th but the one mile River Trail and the very short Ridge Trail are open year round so we made those the target of this visit.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead

We set off on the River Trail and immediately spotted a hummingbird perched atop a tree.
River Trail

Hummingbird

The trail led downhill between a pair of small ponds.
Tualatin River Natioal Wildlife Refuge

The trail passes through a restored oak savannah before arriving at an observation deck above the Tualatin River a half mile from the parking lot.
River Trail

Viewing Deck along the River Trail

Tualatin River

Beyond the deck the trail continues briefly though the restored savannah before entering a forest.
River Trail

The trail splits in the trees with the Ridge Trail leading left to a viewpoint and the River Trail continuing right to the Wetlands Observation Deck.
River Trail junction with the Ridgetop Trail

We stayed right visiting the observation deck first.
Wetlands observation deck

View from the Wetlands Observation Deck

There were a few geese and ducks visible in the distance and a few robins closer by.
Canada geese in the wetlands

Robin

We returned to the junction with the Ridge Trail and turned right onto it to climb to the viewpoint. The Visitor Center was visible across the refuge and a number of ducks and other birds could be seen in the water below. At least some of the ducks looked to be northern shovelers.
RIdgetop Trail

View from the Ridgetop Overlook

Northern Shovelers

We returned to the parking lot after an easy 2.1 mile hike. We plan on returning in the future when the other trails are open to explore more of the refuge and check out the Visitor Center.

We left the refuge and headed south toward our last stop of the day at Willamette Mission State Park.

The site of the former Willamette Mission the 1600 acre park offers a number of activities besides hiking. The mission was established in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee and marked the first organized religious enterprise in Oregon.

We had originally intended on a 2.7 mile hike here as described by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 3rd edition guidebook. Heather had put the book in her pack for the Tualatin Hills Nature Park hike as it was also featured in the guidebook. We hadn’t taken it back out of her pack so we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to park for the described hike so after paying the $5 day use fee at the entrance booth we immediately turned right into a parking area with a hiker symbol.

The lot serves as a trailhead for the Willamette Vision Education Trail, which was not where our book called for us to start but we were already parked so we decided to improvise.
Willamette Mission State Park Trailhead

We followed a bark path .1 miles to the start of a loop where we turned right.
Willamette Vision Educational Trail

Interpretive sign along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail

The trail followed a road bed for half a mile around a field before arriving at Mission Lake. Along the way we spotted a coyote that quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.
Mission Lake

A little over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at the nations largest black cottonwood.
Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Interpretive sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

While we were admiring the tree an osprey landed in it and while we were watching the osprey we noticed a squirrel in the upper branches as well.
Osprey in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Squirrel in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Osprey and a squirrel sharing the Willamette Mission CottonwoodThe osprey and the squirrel (upper right hand corner).

A short distance from the cottonwood the loop crossed the park entrance road. In order to do the hike that we had originally intended to do we turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road for a quarter of a mile to a boat launch and pet exercise area where we picked up the Mission Trail.
Mission Trail

The Mission Trail followed the bank of Mission Lake for .6 miles to the Mission View Site, an observation deck looking across the lake to the site of the former mission.
Mission Trail

Mission Site viewing platform

Marker for the Willamette Mission

The former Mission Site across Mission Lake

We continued on past the Mission Site for another quarter mile before arriving at a the end of the Mission Trail at a paved bike path. We turned right detouring a quarter mile off the loop to visit the Wheatland Ferry crossing on the Willamette River.
Wheatland Ferry

After watching the ferry cross once we headed back along the bike path and followed it along the Willamette River for almost a mile and a half before veering right onto an equestrian trail. Although the bike path paralleled the river there were no real views to speak of due to a strip of trees and vegetation between the path and the water.
Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We opted to follow the multi-use dirt path instead of the paved bike path since pavement seems to be a lot harder on the feet. Despite being a bit muddy in spots the equestrian trail did finally provide a nice view up and down the Willamette.
Equestrian trail in Willamette Mission State Park

Willamette River

Willamette River

Just prior to reaching the high water channel the equestrian trail came near to the bike path. Staying on the equestrian trail would have taken us to the start of a three mile loop with no opportunity to get back to our car so we hopped back onto the bike path here.
Equestrian trail and the bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We then followed the bike path back to the park entrance road.
Willamette Mission State Park

On our way back to the car we did complete the Willamette Vision Education Trail loop but that final 1.4 mile segment was fairly uneventful. The trail loops around a field with views back toward the center of the park. By that time we were passing the 13 mile mark for the day (we had planned on doing 9.2) and I was more focused on my feet than taking pictures. Not only had we started at the wrong spot but the guidebook would have had us cut out some of the bike path and all of the equestrian trail. Instead of 2.7 miles for this stop we had flipped the numbers and done 7.2.

We enjoyed all three stops but the Tualatin Hills Nature Park was definitely our favorite. With that being said they all would be suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities and each offers something unique. We’re lucky to have so many options within an hour of Salem and there are many more that we have yet to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tualatin Hills NP, Tualatin River NWR, Willamette Mission SP

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

We made a late addition to our scheduled hikes when it became clear that the weather on the day of the Give and Get Social for Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) was going to be too nice to pass up.  We had short two featured hikes in Portland from William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in NW Oregon & SW Washington that we had not been able to work into our future plans.   The TKO event was taking place at Dig a Pony which was conveniently close to one of these two hikes, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

We began our hike uncharacteristically late, just after 1:15pm, from the north parking area on SE Milwaukee Ave.

IMG_1291

We followed a paved path downhill to a sign for the Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail.

IMG_1294

IMG_1299

Here the trail split and we stayed left crossing a small footbridge. We would return via the right fork after completing a loop around Wapato Marsh.

IMG_1300

The amount of water in the marsh increased as we went. The first wildlife we spotted were small birds, squirrels and a hawk.

IMG_1313

IMG_1314

IMG_1327

IMG_1326

IMG_1320

IMG_1305

As the amount of water increased we began to see a number of ducks. Several species were present, some of which we were unfamiliar with.

IMG_1332

IMG_1339Green-winged teal

IMG_1349Wood duck

IMG_1377Ring necked duck?

IMG_1354Mallard

IMG_1360Not sure what kind of duck is in the upper left hand corner.

At the far end of the marsh trails from Sellwood Park joined at a meadow. Across the meadow to the west the Holiday Express train was preparing to depart.

IMG_1380

We continued around the marsh passing under the train tracks and turned right on the paved Springwater Corridor. The Holiday Express passed us as we went.

IMG_1385

From this path we spotted some other birds including several herons, a cormorant, and a kingfisher.

IMG_1395

IMG_1392

IMG_1403

We passed a viewpoint of the Willamette River to the west before passing back under the railroad tracks.

IMG_1405

Before passing back under the the tracks we took a short path to the west toward the river where a few pieces of art could be seen amid the trees.

IMG_1408

IMG_1407

We turned off the paved path at a hiker only sign and passed through a wooden fence.

IMG_1410

We were quickly back at the start of the loop and returned uphill to our car. A nice three mile or so stroll with lots of wildlife to watch. We ended our day at Give and Get where we had a good time despite not winning any of the raffles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge