Wednesday, February 22, 2006

NE ~ Johnson Lake

Date visited: February 14, 2006
Agency: Portland Parks & Rec, see also Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Path Surface: dirt, gravel and paved portions
Elevation gain/loss: Minimal
Distance: 3.2 miles
Ratings: Setting ++ Calorie-burning ++
Directions: From I-205 northbound take the Sandy Blvd exit, from southbound, take the
Killingsworth exit (Hwy 30 west). Turn west onto Killingsworth, veer right onto Columbia Blvd, then almost immediately turn right on 92nd Ave. After .25 mile, turn right onto NE Colfax and go to the end of the road.

While an unlikely area for a nature walk, you may be surprised at the waterfowl and grassland bird viewing opportunities here, in spite of the freeway and jet noise. Start on the dirt/gravel path at the end of Colfax. In less than .1 mile, passing through a small forest of cedar, doug fir, black cottonwood and ash trees, we came across a small pond swarming with water fowl--mostly the multi-colored and beautiful wood ducks. Walking just a bit farther brings you to the shore of Johnson Lake. Of the several access points to the lake, really, the clearest view is from Glass Plant Rd. at the east end of the lake. Common mergansers, heron, kingfishers, widgeon and
bufflehead maneuver in and around the water. Song sparrows, red wing blackbirds, robins and scrub jays enjoy the brush and trees nearby.

After about .2 mile, emerge from the trees at a self-storage location. Walk north (left) along Glass Plant Rd. for .1 mile, crossing the Columbia Slough, then turn left on a paved path parallel to the slough. The waters of the slough are often still and lifeless, but some of the surrounding vegetation might produce views of perching birds.

After .5 mile the path turns north along 92nd Ave. When it ends at the sidewalk, cross Alderwood at the crosswalk. The path continues through trees and brush on one side and the wide open fields surrounding the airport on the other. We spotted black capped chickadees, ruby crown kinglets, a flicker, and a Bewick’s wren. Meanwhile, a hawk soared overhead, the light catching the rufous tail for which the bird is named. After 1.35 miles, as the paved path turns back toward the street, turn right on a faint dirt trail that arcs around a small brick building. Try to
stay on the “main” path that crosses the open fields, avoiding the small hidden sloughs, where we spotted several widgeon, to eventually arrive at Cascades Ave. Turn right and follow the sidewalk that borders the vast open field. Rumor has it that pheasants still live in the grass here, along with meadow larks and savannah sparrows. We did not see any of these on this late winter day, but did spot a kestrel and harrier hunting.

Continue on Cascades Ave. as it rolls around to the east. Note the rarely used benches in the median if you need a break. Also take in the view of Rocky Butte to the south. Take the first right, a newly opened and yet unmarked street that returns back to Alderwood. Turn left, returning to Glass Plant Rd., turn right and return to Simpson Rd, re-enter the woods by Johnson Lake and retrace your steps back to your car.

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