Thursday, August 19, 2010

SW ~ Summerlake Park

Date visited: March 12, 2007, last update August 19, 2010
Agency: City of Tigard
Path Surface: Asphalt, dirt, concrete
Elevation gain/loss: 20 ft.
Distance: 1.2 as described
Ratings: Setting +++ Calorie-burning +
Directions: From Highway 217, follow Scholls Ferry Rd southeast to SW 130th and turn left. Curve around to the left as 130th Ave. changes to Winterlake Drive. Look for the parking lot on the left about .5 mile from Scholls Ferry Rd and thirty yards past the picnic shelter. GPS N 45 26.191, W 122 48.627.
Map of the park.

Summer Creek seems to appear from nowhere in this densely developed residential area, but then backs up to form several open water ponds. Two are surrounded by a paved path, and a third can be reached by a short spur. This tiny oasis in thick suburbia holds an amazing variety of wildlife.

From the parking lot, walk north along a path that heads into a small douglas fir, cedar and deciduous forest. Note the Sorg Rhododendron Garden to your right just before you get to the clustered trees. Cross over a little trickle of water into the grove. Several dirt trails take off to the right from the main path; some offer a lake view. Perching birds love the brushy vegetation along the path on either side of the evergreens. We saw bushtits, song sparrows and towhees jumping through the branches and a flock of gold-crowned sparrows searching for food in the woodsy debris along the path.

As the trees thin and after crossing a bridge over Summer Creek, take a short detour left, carefully crossing 130th Ave. to take a look at the wetlands area to the west. Today we saw several green-wing teals, but sometimes you might spot the very colorful wood ducks here. Return to the park and continue east along the “top” of the lake. Canada geese, white-fronted geese and some interesting hybrids hang out along the grassy areas. We saw a pied-billed grebe in the water, many widgeons and even more mallards. Several nutria haunted the shore and “v”ed their way through the water.

We find the first turn to the right irresistable because of the view from the bridge, so go ahead and turn south, across the bridge toward the playground area. You will return to this bridge as the middle of the figure 8 of this walk. Turn left and continue along the south edge of the lake, passing the playground on your right. Robins, flickers and crows seem to favor this area. Red-wing blackbirds perch overlooking the water. Later on in the season, barn swallows will cruise right by you as you walk the path.

Just before coming to another bridge at the east end of the park, take the short spur path to your right, noting the abundant perching birds in the trees here, then turn left on another path at a fence, toward the water. After taking a peek at the waterfowl (binoculars are good here), back track to the main path and turn right to cross another bridge—again an interesting place to stop for a look. Continue around the circle to head west, turn left to cross the bridge you previously crossed near the playground, but this time turn right after crossing the bridge. Walk briefly down hill, ignore the left turn here and walk straight over a small bridge back into the big trees. Follow the dirt trail to its end at an asphalt driveway for the maintenance building. Walk straight through the rhodie garden or stroll the gravel paths through the garden in the spring for a colorful show.

In August, it's fun to take a look at the babies that have turned into miniature adults. We have seen young mallards, wood ducks, grebes and robins who seem more friendly than their wiser adult counterparts.

To get some additional mileage, you can walk the perimeter sidewalks or simply walk through the adjacent neighborhood to the south of the park.

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