Wednesday, May 09, 2007

NW ~ Sauvie Island Lighthouse

Date visited: March 23, 2007
Agency: Oregon Department of Fish &Wildlife
Path Surface: Dirt and grassy dirt (sneakers will be soaked if rainy or dewy)
Elevation gain/loss: none
Distance: 6.6 miles
Ratings: Setting ++++ Calorie-burning +++
Directions: From Hwy 30, cross the Sauvie Island Bridge, turn north on Sauvie Island Rd. for 1.8 miles to Reeder Rd., turn right and follow Reeder Rd almost 13 miles to its end. The final 2 miles is over gravel. An ODFW permit is required to park, available at Sam's Grocery, just north of the Sauvie Island Bridge.

Mountain views, wildlife and river traffic are the highlights of the easy trail on the east edge of Sauvie Island. And a very pleasant drive to reach the trailhead as well, where you can see double-crested cormorants perched on the pilings and kestrels hanging out on the power lines.

To reach the trail, step over the fence into a cow pasture, then follow a faint double track toward a fence on the north side of the pasture. You may spot a killdeer in this pasture as we did. Go through the silver pedestrian gate and continue to follow the double track, noting the views of Mt St Helens and Hood. At .4 mile, at the bright orange channel marker, veer right off the road onto a dirt path. You can also start out walking the beach, then join the trail.

Continue on the main path, although several faint tracks lead off to the left. You may hear a frog chorus at Henrici Lake, which is barely visible through the thick deciduous forest. Look for song sparrows, Bewick's wrens, towhees, chickadees, kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, mourning doves and juncos. Search the sky occasionally for great blue herons and bald eagles. Indian plum and elderberry are leafing out, and stinging nettle is ubiquitous.

At the one mile mark, a wide left fork brings you closer to the lake view. Today, six tundra swans took to the air as we walked by. Common mergansers favor this area and we also spotted geese and American widgeons. We heard at least one marsh wren near the lake, while winter wrens are also still singing. This detour rejoins the main path at 1.25 miles.

Kingfishers rattle overhead and the bushtits have paired off for the season. We were able to spot a mossy looking sack where two are nesting.

After 3.2 miles you emerge from the woods onto the beach with a great view of the Warrior Rock lighthouse. If you are interested in reaching the tip of the island, continue north along the beach for a half mile where you can see across to the city of St Helens.

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