The rebirth that spring brings every year is evident everywhere you look in Oregon’s Washington County. From the blooming flowers and the sweet sounds of the songbird to mother ducks walking about with their ducklings and the tadpoles swimming in ponds, the circle of life is on display to be discovered and admired. One day, on a shiny, warm afternoon, I set out to discover more about the nature that surrounds us, and explored several locations that are worthy of exploration–for adults and children alike.
First stop was Jackson Bottom Wetlands, a 725-acre wetlands preserve, and home to the only known authentic bald eagle’s nest on public display. Ed Becker, natural resources manager for the preserve, took me and my group out to explore the trails. As we took a leisurely walk along a portion of one of the 4-plus miles of trail on the property, we were greeted with the signs of spring: sparrows singing, a bald eagle in flight, as well as a host of birds lounging by the water, from egrets to ducks. We were given a “Bird Species Checklist” at the start, with a comprehensive (and impressive) list of the nearly 200 species of birds that have been spotted there.
Before we left for the next stop, we were invited back to see the annual migration of garter snakes, as they emerge from their underground homes out onto the preserve. Since I have an irrational fear of snakes, I will be passing on this event, but all who are fascinated by our reptilian neighbors can venture to watch this act of nature, as the snakes are expected to come above ground any day now.
Jackson Bottom Wetlands (2600 SW Hillsboro Highway, Hillsboro; 503-681-6206; jacksonbottom.org) is open daily, admission is free (donations suggested). The Education Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the trails are open from dawn to dusk. (Dogs and bicycles are prohibited.)
Next stop was the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, one of only a handful of national urban refuges in the U.S. We ventured out along the one-mile trail into the forested area, and stopped to take in the soothing sounds of the Tualatin River that runs through the refuge. We didn’t spot any wildlife while visiting, but I’ve been told that things really get hopping in the morning or before dusk when many birds and other wildlife are out and about.
Visitors can request a “discovery kit,” which is a backpack full of tools and guides to turn a stroll through the refuge into a fact-finding adventure. These kits, available on loan at no charge, are perfect for families and others who are looking to make their visit to the refuge a fun, hands-on and educational experience. In addition to trails, the refuge also has a Wildlife Center, which provides a historical overview of the area, including during the pioneer days, and a nature store filled with fun activities and gifts for all ages.
The trails at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (19255 SW Pacific Highway, Sherwood; 503-625-5944; fws.gov/tualatinriver) are open daily, from dawn until dusk, and admission is free. The Wildlife Center is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. (Dogs and bicycles are prohibited.)
Our final stop was the House of Reptiles and Venomous Reptile Museum. This place, filled with creepy, crawly creatures, was a fascinating addition to our exploration of Oregon’s Washington County. The store itself, the House of Reptiles, with its collection of more than 100 species of creatures, provided an interesting glimpse into the lives of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Among the animals available for sale (as well as the live insects, such as the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which is used as food for the animals) are those that have been rescued. These rescued “pets,” including a boa constrictor and alligator, are not for sale, but are interesting to look at, nonetheless.
The Venomous Reptile Museum, which opened to the public in February and is the only museum of its kind in the region, features an array of live, venomous reptiles. We viewed them safely behind glass, while interpretive signs explained the types of venom produced by these ominous creatures and the effect venom has on humans. Needless to say, I got out of there quickly, and headed back into the store with the non-venomous reptiles.
The House of Reptiles (11507 SW Pacific Highway, Tigard; 503-722-1992; house-of-reptiles.com) is open daily (hours vary); admission to the Venomous Reptile Museum is $3 per person.
Build your own Outdoor Adventure itinerary by checking out the many natural spaces and attractions throughout Oregon’s Washington County.
In addition to trails, the refuge also has a Wildlife Center, which provides a historical overview of the area, including during the pioneer days, and a nature store filled with fun activities and gifts for all ages.