Connecting the loop trails from Smithfield Road (Morgan Lake and Moffitti Marsh trails) and the trails available from the Coville Road trailhead is the intertie trail. This creates one large hiking area from what would have been several smaller trails.
The trail runs along the summit of Baskett Butte, through oak savanna (which is a rare ecosystem these days in the Willamette Valley). The forest is not quite as dense as what you would find surrounding the Baskett Butte summit loop trail, and therefore the wildlife you would find here is slightly different than the high density forest at the summit.
I have observed here everything from Northern Kestrels to deer. It isn't a very dense habitat like the marshes are, but various song birds and woodpeckers can be seen in the trees, and from time to time I have seen and heard white-breasted nuthatches.
The length of the trail is 0.4 mile (0.7 km) one way.
This trail may be accessed from the Morgan Reservoir Trail or the Moffitti Marsh Trail from Smithfield Road (Closed October 1 to March 31), or from the Baskett Butte Summit Loop trail from the Coville Road Trailhead. The northern part of the trail is also closed from October 1 to March 31, but the rest of it is open all year. This allows remote viewing down onto the marshes below, so that it is possible to see what is wintering in the marshes. At least, if you have good telephoto equipment it is possible to see down there from the end of the all-year segment.
You will want to take a close look at the first two photos to help find your way:
Photo 1: if you go around the summit of Basket Butte counterclockwise, this is the junction of the Intertie Trail and Baskett Butte summit loop trail you will come to. Go left to continue around the loop, and go straight to go to the Intertie Trail, which connects with the Morgan Reservoir Trail. If you go clockwise around the Baskett Butte summit trail, you would turn right to continue the loop, or left to take the Intertie Trail.
Photo 2: Looking at the Morgan Reservoir Trail junction, from the Intertie Trail. Either direction brings you to the parking areas along Smithfield Road. Pay close attention to where you came down, and to the curve in the Morgan Reservoir Trail, as this junction is almost completely invisible when the grass is long.
The covered viewing kiosk allows for some great views of the Cackler Marsh part of Baskett Slough, and further off it is possible to see some of the farm land where the Canada geese like to winter. The Kiosk also features a free viewing scope that allows for some very good up close looks at the various birds.
While the free of charge viewing scope is good, it has its limitations, and you may want to bring your own scope or other telephoto viewing equipment. Most of the bird life is pretty far out on the water and difficult to see from here without such equipment.
There are two unsheltered picnic tables here as well, which are too hot in the summer months, rained out for much of the winter, and much too close to the traffic noise on highway 22. They are there, however, for those who would like to use them. I would instead suggest using the somewhat more sheltered benches inside the kiosk. On a somewhat warm winter day like Nov 15, 2008 (when the photos were taken) they are reasonably pleasant - except for the traffic noise.
The more patient you are, and the longer you wait, the more variety you will see. Over the course of an hour, I saw several different types of birds of prey, tundra swans, white egrets, and a few smaller birds, in addition to the constant seeing and hearing of Canada geese and various types of ducks.
UPDATE: As of the summer of 2010, the pit toilets that formerly occupied a space at the southern end of the gravel parking lot have been removed. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that they do not have the resources to continue emptying the toilet due to the heavy use that it gets as a rest stop along Highway 22, rather than only for those wishing to see the animal life.
The entrance to this trail is a small gravel parking lot at the intersection of Smithfield Road and Livermore Road. The trail wanders through grass fields along the edge of Morgan Reservoir, which in the summer is a small pond but in the winter is a much larger area of water.
Wildlife is always somewhat unpredictable, and the reason why this trail is closed in the winter months is to keep people from disturbing wintering endangered bird life.
Thus, when the trail is open, you will find there is much less interesting here than there would be in the winter.
There were several ducks and geese on the pond during my June 20, 2009 visit. A great blue heron was fairly close by on the Moffitti Marsh, and bald eagles were seen on the Cackler Marsh. However, except for the very few ducks and geese, there wasn't much on the Morgan Reservoir itself. Yet, your experience may vary, with the movement of wildlife. The heron or the bald eagles could just as easily have been near this marsh.
The trail is approximately 1.6 miles (2.7 km) from one end to the other (double distances if you are going out and back). At the end of the trail, there are several options: take the Moffitti Marsh Trail back to the place you started, or take the Inter-Tie trail up the hill to the summit loop and the Rich Guadagno Observation Platform.
There are no restrooms along the trail or at the parking lot, but it is possible to access the Coville Road trailhead from the trail to the Rich Guadagno Observation Platform.
From the junction of highway 22 and 99W, go north on 99W. Somewhat over a mile from the junction (maybe closer to 2 miles), turn left onto Smithfield Road. The parking lot is at above intersection. From highway 22 go west past the intersection of 99W and highway 22. You will see the Highway 22 Observation Platform on your right. Turn right onto Smithfield Road about 1 mile west of Highway 22 observation platform. Smithfield Road is a gravel road, and you may not want to take it if you don't like driving on gravel.
Much like the Morgan Reservoir Trail, the Moffitti Marsh Trail come south from Smithfield Road and runs along wetlands areas as well as fields of grass. At the end of the trail it is possible to continue on the Intertie Trail to the loop trail around the summit of Baskett Butte, or to return north to the Smithfield Road parking area by either going back the way you came, or make a loop by taking the Morgan Lake Reservoir Trail.
During the summer, after some weeks without rain, the water level will have dropped quite a bit. Also, blackberries and other weeds will have grown up along the edges of the marshland. This makes viewing the wildlife a bit difficult, though there are still places where it is possible to see the marshland even under those circumstances.
There is no real trailhead here. In fact, the gate at the trail entrance says that the area is closed beyond that point. Yet, the map of the refuge distributed at the several literature racks in the refuge says that this is in fact a trail that is open for people to use (at least during the summer season), and there are no signs at the other end telling people to avoid coming in here.
To get to the trail, it is necessary to park at the Morgan Lake Trailhead at the intersection of Livermore Road and Smithfield Road. You must then walk west on Smithfield Road about 1/4 of a mile (slightly less than half a km) to a gate on the south side of Smithfield Road. It is a narrow road, so watch for cars!
The trail is approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 km) one way, to which you can add the various other trails to see more of the refuge.
While closed to all vehicles except those used by refuge staff, seasonal hiking access is available to the refuge service road that runs between the Cackler March and Dusky Marsh. These are the two large wetlands on the south side of the refuge, and are the two largest wetlands in the refuge.
Access to this trail must start at the Coville Road Trailhead, as there is no parking space at the entrance to the trail from Coville Road. From the parking area, it is necessary to walk southward along Coville Road a short distance to a gate at the sharp turn in Coville Road. The signs at this gate will tell you the season the trail is open to the public. If the season is correct, then simply walk around the edge of the gate to access the maintenance road / trail.
The road consists of two rough gravel tracks, but is fairly flat, though at the south end of the trail there is a slight increase in height that will allow you to get a somewhat better view of the marshes.
At the very least, you will certainly see some of the local swallow population, which constantly collect insects a few feet above the marshes. Great blue heron and ducks were along the trail on my June 20th visit, and way off in the distance on trees in the middle of the Cackler Marsh were two bald eagles.
However, wildlife is unpredictable, especially when seasons, migration and weather are taken into consideration. About the only thing I will guarantee are the swallows, as they arrive as early as March, and certainly will be on hand any time the trail is open. You will probably also see at least one Canada goose, and other water birds.
Local wildlife is fairly shy, and so you may want to take a compact folding camp chair, and set up on the small hill and wait for the birds to adjust to your presence on the trail.
As a starting point for the two all-season trails in the Wildlife Refuge (Baskett Butte Loop Trail and the Baskett Butte Observation Platform trail), as well as one of the several starting points for the seasonally open trails (the Inter-Tie Trail, the Morgan Lake Trail and the Moffitti Marsh Trail), the Coville Road Trailhead is a fairly important site for those wishing to get out of their cars and see what the refuge has to offer.
There is a restroom facility and a single picnic table at the gravel parking lot.
During the winter months, the farm field across the road from the trailhead parking area is covered with a fairly thick blanket of Canada geese. (As you can see from the two photos taken on November 15, 2008!) Maybe there are some of the highly prized duskies in there, and maybe not. Good luck sorting the whole mess of them out!
It pays to also look in the trees and fields around the parking area. I saw 8 deer and a number of smaller birds right next to the parking lot, though only a few other people noticed them.
From 99W, turn west onto Coville Road. This is located about 2 miles or so north of the highway 22 - highway 99W interchange. From the north, it is the next road after Farmer Road on the east side of 99W. From highway 22 going west, make a sharp U turn to the right at the intersection of Smithfield, highway 22 and Coville Road. This puts you on Smithfield Road for about 3 feet before turning onto Coville Road, and heading back east. From highway 22 going east, turn north onto Smithfield Road for 3 feet, then turn right onto Coville Road. Coville Road is unpaved, except for the western 100 feet or so. It is fairly narrow, and may appear to be a driveway to one of the local houses.
On some maps, you will see what the National Wildlife Refuge literature call Baskett Butte referred to as "Mount Baldy". While this isn't an entirely appropriate name, considering the dense Oregon Oak forest on the top of the hill, there are fairly few trees on this southern edge of Baskett Butte. This is where the Baskett Butte Observation Platform has been located, and this allows for some great viewing of the Cackler Marsh directly to the south, plus to a lesser extent some of the other marshes including the Vancouver Marsh, Dusky Marsh and Taverner's Marsh.
It isn't a complete 360 degree view, but it is reasonably close to a 270 degree view. To the east you can see all the way to Mount Jefferson, and west deep into the Coast Range. Looking south, you can see the Willamette River Valley farmland and the various hills surrounding Salem.
The observation platform and the trail to it has been dedicated to the memory of a former manager of Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, who was killed on September 11, 2001 during the famous terrorist attacks.
To get here, you need to start at the Coville Road trailhead, which in wintertime is a great place to see the Canada geese as they carpet the nearby farmland within 100 feet or so of Coville Road.
The gravel trail climbs steeply to the top of the south side of Baskett Butte, and all you need to do is turn left twice at the two trail junctions that join this trail with the Baskett Butte Loop Trail.
Along with viewing the local wildlife, the viewing platform also offers a very complete view of the surrounding countryside, from nearby farmland all the way to Mount Jefferson in the distance. It may be heavy and a pain to carry this far, but you will definitely want to have your telephoto equipment with you up here.
Running through preserved upland oak forests and grasslands, the Baskett Butte Loop Trail is one of the two trails in the wildlife refuge that is open to the public all year. As with the Baskett Butte Observation Platform Trail, the Baskett Butte Loop Trail is accessed from the Coville Road Trailhead.
From the Coville Road trailhead and heading up the hill on the trail as if you were going to the Baskett Butte Observation Platform, you will come to two trail junctions. Turning left at both junctions leads you to the observation platform. However, if you turn right at either of the trail junctions, you will be put in a loop around the top of Baskett Butte.
During the season when the seasonal trails are open, it is also possible to get to the trail from the north side of the refuge and the Smithfield Road Trailhead, by way of the Morgan Lake Trail and the Inter-Tie trail.
Despite the fact that the trail runs through fairly dense forest for much of its length, there are also a number of great views from up here, including being able to see all the way to Mount Jefferson.
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