It’s almost Spring and time for the birds to begin singing along the Willamette Valley Birding Trail. If you’ve been Portland-centric up until now it might be time to go visit a new river. Have you ever heard of the Luckiamute? It’s south of Salem, near the town of Independence. The camping area is for people paddling the river only. From the water, it’s Mile 108, Luckiamute Landing.
From land, the North entrance offers a three mile hike through the Natural Area. The pond was created out of an old gravel pit and hosts the now rare Western Pond Turtle. What a treat it would be to see a turtle in its outdoor habitat. A map of the trails can be found here.
One of the parking lot entrances goes over a wooden timber bridge that could be a challenge depending on the width of your car. It’s similar to driving into a car wash only without the guy directing you. If you have a smaller car, it might not fit the tracks. That being said, there is a nice bathroom up at the boat launch area. The sign says it’s a steep hill to put the boat in but the water was high last week and it didn’t look too bad.
Some of the birds that could be there to greet you at some point might include Wood Ducks, Ruffed Grouse, Swainson’s Thrush and the wintering Western Meadowlark. The Western Meadowlark is Oregon’s state bird and has a most beautiful song.
Near this area, there is also The Ankeny Wildlife Reserve. It provides a place to stop for wintering geese.
Between the two there is a fun excursion available on the Buena Vista Ferry. The ferry has been up and running since 1852. The actual boat was new in 2011. It is run on cables above the water and below it. It is quick and efficient and you can get a good view from the middle of the river. Pedestrians are free! Cars are either $3 or $5 depending on how long they are. You can use the entire boat for $18.00. They also sell water and ice cream to make the trip more complete. Their number is (503) 588-7979 if you want to find out more.
Nearby camping, if you don’t have a kayak, could include Champoeg State Park. It has not only campsites but also cabins and yurts. Apparently the yurts can get a little warm when it’s nice out, but really is that often a problem? For photos from Champoeg, including last year’s historic brass band, click here.
Other points of interest in the Willamette Valley Birding Trail include Baskett Slough, Milo McIver and Powell Butte along with at least a hundred other great spots.
Directions to Luckiamute: From Portland head South on I-5. Take exit 260A and stay straight to go to Commercial. Turn right on Marion. Follow signs for Hwy 22 going West over the Marion Street Bridge in Salem. Go about 5 miles and take a slight left to stay on Hwy 22 toward Dallas. In another 6 miles turn left on Hwy 51. From Independence, located on Hwy 51, South of Salem, go South on Corvallis Rd for six miles, go straight on Prather Rd for .8 mile and turn South on Buena Vista Rd. The North entrance is 3 miles South of Buena Vista.
If you take the ferry across the Willamette, you can follow signs to get back on I-5 at Talbot Rd.