Jackson Bottom Wetlands – Part 1 – Hillsboro

It’s a bit rainy on this spring Sunday but the bronco is running and I’m itching to get out of the house.  I’m on call for work, so can’t go too far.  I decided to visit a local nature sanctuary where a large number of wild birds can be seen and heard.  There are large mammals that can be seen as well as other wildlife in a natural setting very close to Hillsboro.  It’s only about a 30 minute walk south on highway 219 from downtown Hillsboro to the Jackson Bottom Wetlands.

The parking lot is large and on this Sunday was pretty empty – maybe it was the rain.  I noticed a new trail off to the south, which looked interesting.  It had a nice wooden path leading to the river and was called the Tualatin River Riparian Trail.

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It’s a really nice path that goes along the river, though at this time of year it seemed a bit muddy today so I decided to keep going to a better spot I knew about that had a gravel path.  The first thing you’ll see is a large map that shows all of the different locations and trails that are in the wetlands.  There are several observation points and paths that wind their way through the wetlands.  There are many observation points and shelters that allow excellent opportunities for bird watching and nature observation.

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After the map there is nice porous concrete path that ends at the visitor’s center.  The Jackson Bottom folks are always trying to encourage conservation and the porous concrete sidewalk is a great example of that – the path is easier to travel on for people with different abilities and also allows water to soak through, aiding with erosion prevention, runoff, and pollutant contamination.

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I thought this was a fantastic introduction to the Jackson Bottom Wetlands, and gives visitors a glimpse into the mindset of how the folks think there – they are very concerned with conservation (not a surprise) but to see it actually put into action and implemented is and enacted is very nice.  The different ways and means the conservation efforts are being done and implemented is very impressive.  The fact that they are able to both allow the natural environment thrive and allow visitors to interact with that same environment is fantastic.

Off the path can be seen a small bridge and water feature, which was really nice, I particularly enjoyed the way the staff at Jackson Bottom Wetland staff used the features of the landscape to allow visitors to interact with the environment.

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I decided not to wander too far and made my way to the visitor’s center.  The visitor’s center has a very nice concrete area in front that would allow visitor’s a spot to dry off If the weather is rainy – that never happens in the Willamette Valley, right??  There is also a nice dry-erase board on the outside of the visitor’s center that staff use to show the wildlife that has been seen in the area recently – on this Sunday bald eagles were seen, beavers, osprey, swallows, wrens, robins, warblers, orioles, and others.

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Once you enter the visitor’s center there is a wonderful little gift shop that volunteers staff.  There is a variety of nature related items to buy and I’ll have to admit I’ve purchase a few stuffed animals for friends and family.  There are also quite a few displays and other interactive exhibits.  If you turn to the left from the gift shop you can normally see a small bird feeder where if you’re lucky you can see some birds dining on whatever goodies have been put our for them, today there were several birds and even a squirrel on the ground enjoying treats.  If you take a right from the gift shop there is a large room where many exhibits are shown, the most impressive being a large eagle nest in the middle of the room.  There is quite a story about this nest and the work that went into removing it and preserving it.  There are also many interactive exhibits and features that can be experienced by families and people of any age.

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When I was done with the inside of the Visitor’s center I made my way to the outside, the back porch is enormous and has many benches which have been donated to the Jackson Bottom Wetlands over the years.  They are used during presentations and are often in different configurations.  This is a great spot to enjoy the views of the wetlands and experience the environment without getting too damp.  The smells and sounds of the environment without enjoying it too much if you know what I mean.  Additionally, when the visitor’s center is open you can check out binoculars and put them into mounts on the back rail to get closer views of the wildlife and foliage in the wetlands, so be sure to do that when you get a chance to visit.  I had a tremendous sense of peace and quiet when I was on the back porch and I found that many of the stresses of modern life seem to melt away when simply relaxing on a bench and observing the pace of life in the Wetlands.

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In part two I’ll talk about the walk I took while visiting Jackson Bottom Wetlands.  Overall I give the wetlands so far 5 HeyWillamettes, from the obvious efforts with their conservation, their access to nature and new paths, and impressive visitor’s center and continuing notification of the recently observed wildlife it’s apparent they care quite a bit about what they are doing and I’m glad to have visited.

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