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Please see my Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge general information on how to get to the publicly accessible part of the wildlife refuge.
During the summer months, there isn't a huge amount that can be seen from the observation platform at the end of the all-year trail that runs between the visitors center and the north end of the publicly accessible part of the refuge. However, even though there is much less to see in the summer, that doesn't mean that the area is completely empty. Be sure to check for birds of pray soaring in the distance over this and the non-publicly accessible parts of the refuge. During the summer, earlier in the morning is better than the heat of the afternoon. You may find chickadee, brown creeper, Bewick's wren, bushtit, and other small birds exploring the trees near this overlook, so be careful, patient, and quiet and maybe you will see some of these smaller visitors.
The wet season raises the water level to the point where the edge of the water is quite close to the platform at times, and there is more to see from here. Various birds of prey do hunt the waterfowl, and the wintering birds do come reasonably close to the platform at times. You may see kestrels and falcons hunting over the water, or in the grasslands nearby. I haven't seen a harrier here yet, but that doesn't mean they don't hunt here as well.
The raised level, even though it is very slight, allows for quite a range of vision - if you have brought some good telephoto equipment and probably a good tripod or other stand to hold it in place.
The trail that leads to this platform leaves from the north side of the parking lot near the visitors center and is approximately 1 mile in length.
Updated Nov 28, 2010
This wildlife refuge is scattered into several different locations. As of this writing, VirtualTourist doesn't feature it as a location on its system (unlike, say, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge or the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge) so for now the refuge will be added to the nearest community that does exist on VirtualTourist, which is the Six Corners area of Sherwood. If the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is ever added as a location on VirtualTourist, this page is intended to become the introduction page to that location.
The refuge is located on restored farm land that would have otherwise been converted to suburban homes and other suburban type development. There is very little elevation change throughout the refuge. There is a visitor's center (see my separate tip on that) that is located near the main entrance. This center was completed in 2008, and features an educational facility, an indoor and outdoor viewing platform area, and park rangers that can help identify wildlife. This visitor's center is only open from 10am to 4 pm Tuesday through Sundays.
Outdoors, there is a trail that runs from the nature center parking lot along the north side of the refuge to an observation deck that overlooks areas where wildlife may be seen. During the wet months, this observation deck actually sits close to the edge of a shallow swamp that forms here, but the water disappears during the summer, until only a few small ponds scattered through the refuge are still there.
A short branch of this trail leads to the top of the highest point in the refuge, which is only about 70 feet above the rest of the refuge. Unfortunately, trees and bushes have grown up so quickly around this upper viewing platform that it is no longer possible to see much of anything from this location.
The trail runs along the Tualatin River for a short dstance, and there is a River Overlook Platform for looking at wildlife that might be in the river.
From May to September, it is possible to walk on a road that runs the entire circumference of the wildlife refuge, and a branch road that cuts across the middle. However, this is closed to public access during the winter months in order to provide natural undisturbed habitat for the geese and other bird life that winter here.
There is a photo blind here that may only be accessed if you have a reservation.
Take a look at the decorated benches here, featuring profile artwork of wildlife of the area.
Geese, ducks and herons are a reasonably good bet here, and you may see bald eagle, red tailed hawk, and a number of water birds. I have seen chickadee, nuthatch, and occasionally cedar waxwing, and there are various other sightings as well of various moving birds.
Right now, entry to the wildlife refuge is free of charge. However, they are building a pay booth and self-service pay station for those who visit to pay a (usually $3) fee to enter the refuge. This is still a relatively good bargain. It is unknown if/when this pay system will be implemented.
Updated Nov 28, 2010
Address: 19255 SW Pacific Hwy, Sherwood, OR 97140
On ongoing effort for some years has been improving the public access to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.
Opened in 2008, the new nature center at the refuge includes an indoor viewing area, and outdoor viewing area, a small store, and a small but fairly complete educational room with information about the ecological history of the area.
Along with the ecological history, the educational facility also takes a look at what the future might hold, and directions society should go in order to help preserve some of the area's wildlife.
Be sure to take a look at the indoor viewing area, which is located on the overlook side of the center, inside the memorabilia store. Usually, there is something of interest to see, and there is almost always a spotting scope set up and available for use in viewing it, and usually there is something interesting in the water there. Great Blue Herons are reasonably common in the shallow water here, and it is fun to watch them hunt. Bald eagles are regular visitors and residents of the refuge during much of the year. Refuge volunteers and staff look through the scope and adjust it to various places during the day, and whoever happens to be on duty at the desk at the time can tell you what they have seen through it recently - as they do regularly check up on what is out there to answer that very question.
Please take a look at my Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge general information tip for more information and photographs.
The nature center is only open from 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Therefore, if you visit in the afternoon, be sure to take advantage of what is in there even if you have no interest in staying indoors when you visit the refuge. If it takes you more than a few hours to explore the trails on the refuge, you will come back and find the visitor's center closed.
Updated Nov 28, 2010
Unfortunately, I can't say that this viewpoint offers too much for visitors. It is possible to get a different perspective on some of the wetland areas in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, but the view is not particularly good due to the distance from the main areas of the refuge and the trees that form an obstacle.
There is a loop in the driveway to allow for motor homes to park here, and there is a standard issue "vault" (pit) toilet. The trails that link this area with the rest of the refuge are closed in winter.
There are several interpretive signs that are very similar to those found over at the main part of the wildlife refuge.
This is not an easy spot to find. Except for the very top of the vault toilet, the area is hidden from Roy Rogers Road. The access road is an old section of Roy Rogers Road, and is narrow and appears to be a driveway for a nearby farm house. There are no signs on Roy Rogers Road indicating the location to turn off. Going north, the road you need to turn off onto is on your right just after you pass the intersection with Scholls-Sherwood Road.
Going south, Roy Rogers Road crosses the Tualatin River and enters a straight stretch. The next curve is where you need to turn left.
Updated Nov 5, 2008
During the late spring and all summer months, it is possible to walk on the access roads inside the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. From October 1 to April 30 it is not possilbe to walk on these roads, unless you are part of the National Wildlife Refuge crew and have permission to be there (such as working with a volunteer group removing invasive plant species, planting new trees, etc.).
When they are open, these roads allow visitors to access many areas of the refuge that can not be accessed from the all-season walking path.
While there is wildlife here during August and September, the fact is that most of the migrating birds are not here then. The best time to visit these roads is as early in the open period as possible. Early May will see a number of birds still at the refuge, but not enough of them to be easily distrubed. (If you have ever visited during the winter and seen the huge numbers of geese on the water during those months, you would understand why it is a bad idea to let people in during that time.)
The ecosystems along the roads include some forest land and a fair amount of wetlands. To see the most wildlife in the smallest amount of space, it seems to be best to stay near the water. The dry lands towards the far end of the refuge don't have the same density of wildlife, but forested land does attract some other varieties of birds and other wildlife.
In the wetlands, watch for swallows and swifts feeding off insects, as well as a number of different types of birds that dig for food along the water line. Geese and ducks are fairly common during late spring and early summer, but by August the land is too dry to support many of them. Great Blue Heron are also around pretty much all year.
Watch for coyote and deer extrememt on the roads! People aren't the only ones who visit!
When possible look up, as eagles and hawks visit the trees. Turkey vultures also regularly visit. Bald Eagles do visit the refuge.
Updated Oct 2, 2008
Access to this photo blind is only available by reservation. The blind itself is fairly well hidden in the grass and trees of the refuge, so that it is not easy to see the small structure from any direction unless you are failry close to it.
The idea of the photo blind is to allow people to get close to the bird life without scaring them or interfering with them, and thus it is requested that people stay away from the blind unless they have a reservation. It is open only on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sunday all year.
To obtain a reservation, you need to contact the National Wildlife Refuge staff directly. The web site below is a good starting point. There are some e-mail addresses on the web site (look under the recreation section) and instructions on how to contact the refuge for use of the photo blind.
The path to the photo blind is located at the end of the all-year walking path that goes to the Wetlands Observation Deck. The path to the photo blind is about 1000 feet to a path through a forest near the observation deck.
Your best bet is early morning or dusk, as that is when there is the most wildlife activity that is visible.
Updated Oct 1, 2008
Phone: (503) 625-5944
Located on the extreme north end of the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, this platform is used to see wildlife (and particularly birds) that like the water. While water birds are most likely, I have also seen quite a number of other smaller birds of various species in the trees nearby. If you are quiet and still for a few minutes, you will have a much better chance of seeing them, as they will get used to your presence and go back to looking for food in the surrounding trees.
While the platform itself does not yet have any benches, there is a bench on the immediate west side of the platform. It is somewhat hidden by trees, so you may not notice it right away.
To access this platform, follow the instructions on how to get to the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge from highway 99W. Take the all-weather trail on the north side of the parking lot. As the trail heads north it eventually runs next to the river, and then west for a while. The observation platform is approximately 1 mile from the visitors center along this trail. During the summer months, you can also walk a slightly shorter distance on the gravel access road that parallels this trail.
Written Sep 12, 2008
While it doesn't look like much from the outside, this is one of the best deals in the Portland area, especially during the lunch specials.
From the outside, it looks just like a standard restaurant that is part of a strip mall, without much potential.
Once you walk through the doors, you will find that the entire place is decorated in hand made artwork. Even the ceramic light fixtures above the tables appear to be individually made to be one of a kind works of art.
The food is quite good, especially considering the price.
There is an outdoor seating area, but it is seldom used. I'm guessing this is because of the traffic noise from nearby 99W.
Please note that the web site featured below does not include the Sherwood location for some reason. However, it is the same local restaurant chain - right down to the numbered items on the on-line menu.
Favorite Dish: The $6 lunch specials can't be beat! In almost all cases they are a pile of food that arrives hot and relatively quickly.
Written Jun 2, 2009
Address: 16055 SW Tualatin Sherwood Rd, Sherwood
Phone: (503) 925-9723
The good news is that the old pit toilets that once served as the point of relief for the refuge have been removed and replaced with actual flush toilets.
The better news is that the restroom facility also has parts of it that are part of educational efforts at the refuge. The most visible of these is the "vertical garden" that has been planted to illustrate what can be done with plants native to Oregon, when the only space you have available is a wall.
Vertical gardens have developed a small following here in the northwest, where they have been used to make concrete walls more attractive, and slow down the speed of water draining off of roof downspouts.
This version on the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge uses native plants, even some that you might not expect to be good in a vertical garden. For example, Oregon Grape is normally a fairly good sized shrub, but here it is only a wall covering.
Quite a number of plants have been used in the vertical garden, in the hopes that the variety of colors will illustrate that these do not have to be boring or plain spaces either. What can be done in a horizontal garden with interesting intermixing of plant species can also be done in a vertical garden.
Each of the plants are labeled with their common and latin names, so that it is possible to know the exact plant species that was used in the creation of this living wall.
Written Nov 24, 2011
Bald Eagles are known to frequent the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, so be sure to keep your eyes open.
If you do see them, they will most likely appear as they do in photo 2: almost invisible and perched on a barren tree in the middle of the refuge - or very close to the middle.
To really see them, you will have to use some telephoto equipment.
The way I got the view you see in photos 1 and 3 was to put the small lens of the digital camera against the viewing lens of the spotting scope that is in the nature center and overlooks the refuge. This provides better telephoto ability than anything you would probably want to carry around with you.
However, you have to be very sharp eyed to see them first! What you see in photo 2 is easy to overlook.
Written Dec 15, 2009