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Nature Passport: Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve

Posted on: August 18th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Where has your summer led you? Or perhaps more pointedly, have you been using the Nature Passport to get yourself to outdoorsy hotspots in the Tualatin Valley? The Nature Passport is a handy—and free!—tool to use year-round. Bird and botany aficionados are using the Nature Passport to discover everything our parks and reserves have to offer, from its roots to what flies in its skies. Today, we’re flipping the page to the Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve page in the Nature Passport.

Open dawn to dusk, the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserver offers shows off its birds against vibrant sunrises and sunsets.

Open dawn to dusk, the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserver offers shows off its birds against vibrant sunrises and sunsets.

The Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve is more than 600 acres of natural bliss for birders, wildlife watchers, hikers and kids. The wetlands are fed by the Tualatin River floodplain. The preserve is marked by four miles of easy hiking trails via the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop.

So, what exactly are you going to experience while looping around the preserve? Majestic eagles, ribbit-happy frogs and the clove-like scent of the golden currants all create a symphony for the senses. Of course, what you see will change with the seasons. For a seasonally organized list of birds seen at the Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve, check out the Bird Checklist.

Curious kids and ever-learning adults should visit the preserve’s Education Center. See the first authentic bald eagles’ nest recovered from the wild on display and get the nitty-gritty details on the plants flourishing outside. It’s easy to see why the Wapato Native American tribe once was hunters-and-gathers from this fertile land.

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
Location: 2600 SW Hillsboro Highway, OR 97123
Phone: (503) 681-6206
Hours: Dawn to dusk; Education Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Past Nature Passport Blog Posts:
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Cook Park
Cooper Mountain Nature Park
Fernhill Wetlands

Order your Nature Passport and share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram. Tag your photos with #WaCoNature.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Redefining “Snowbird”

Posted on: January 7th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Blue Heron nest in Oregon's Washington County's beautiful refuges and wetlands.

The Blue Heron nest in Oregon’s Washington County’s beautiful refuges and wetlands.

Turn a shivering Brrr! into an exclamation, Birds! While much of the nation is making its way through harsh winter storms, Oregon’s Washington County is staying true to its temperate weather. While the area experiences winter via rainy days, foggy mornings, nighttime chills, and occasional flurries, the geography generally offers a balmy and pleasant wintertime for visitors of both the human and fowl variety.  Winter is indeed a spectacular time to go birding in Oregon’s Washington County.

Reasons to Winter Bird Watch Here:

  1. With less foliage, it is easier not only to spot birds, but also tracks leading to foraging spots.
  2. As resources are less plentiful, it’s more common for several species of birds to congregate in a mixed flock during the colder months. Seeing many species together is a special experience, as well as a chance to check multiple birds off of your “must-see” list at once.
  3. At the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge alone, an average of 20,000 waterfowl—including Canada Geese, northern pintails, and mallards—can be observed in one day. And Bald Eagles are counted as a commonly seen species. At the Jackson Bottom Wetlands and Fernhill Wetlands, catch a glimpse of the round-headed American Wigeon bobbing in the water. It truly is magic to see the Great Blue Heron nesting amidst the winter marshes, as well.

Winter Birding Tips:

  1. Check the weather report before you go! Dress right for the adventure and you’ll be happy and cozy whether it’s rainy, snowy, or foggy.
  2. Just because it’s not the dead heat of summer, doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated! Bring water, snacks, and sunscreen for your day in the refuges.
  3. Keep any valuable gear in check against unexpected winter elements. We suggest a harness or neck strap attached to a pair of water-resistant binoculars.


Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Trail of the Week: Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop

Posted on: September 23rd, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Spot an Egret taking a morning dip!

Spot an Egret taking a morning dip!

Lick those lips and get ready to bird call! This week’s Trail of the Week is about seeing feathered friends in their natural habitats. Just as visitors come to Oregon’s Washington County for its flourishing valleys and delectable foods, so do fauna in migration. Travel in style—like the birds do—and make yourself comfortable along the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop.

The loop, which is part of the 725-acre Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, welcomes a comfortable habitat for indigenous and migratory birds alike. Bald eagles, egrets, and red-tailed hawks are common dwellers along the path. The autumn season brings a host of other beautiful birds: Black-Capped Chickadee, Marsh Wren, and European Starling, and more. And there’s no reason to bring your iPod when the Song Sparrow and Cackling Goose are happy to add a soundtrack to your day. For a full list of birds on the loop, see the Jackson Bottom Wetlands’ Bird Checklist.

At the trailhead, the loop eases birders into the journey with a flat path that slowly acclimates into the foothills of the Chehalem Mountains. In addition to birds, trail-goers can take in the land that helps tell the story of Native American roots and modern viticulture. The route again relaxes into a flat path with access to Rood Bridge Park and its amenities.

For a guided experience, attend the Jackson Bottom Wetlands 10th Anniversary (September 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve). The preserve’s Education Center will be showing off recent restoration projects, including an eagle’s nest rescued from the wild. Members of the Audubon will showcase two live birds of prey (12 p.m. to 3 p.m.). The 10th Anniversary celebration will also engage bird lovers young and old with hands-of activities involving animal tracks, skulls, and pond life.

Fast Facts:
Length: 4 miles hiking
Type: hiking
Level: easy
Trailhead: Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, 2600 SW Hillsboro Highway, Hillsboro, OR 97123
GPS Coordinates: N45° 31.3736′, W122° 59.3896′

Please note: Pets and bicycles are prohibited

Read past installments of Trail of the Week:
Fanno Creek Trail
Tualatin River Water Trail
Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway
Westside Regional Trail

A Closer Look at Our Cities: Hillsboro

Posted on: August 7th, 2012 by Sylke Neal-Finnegan No Comments

Hillsboro is Washington County’s largest city (population, approx. 91,000), as well as one of the oldest communities in the state. With the emergence of the technology sector, as part of the region’s “Silicon Forest,” the city’s large farming community shares zip codes with some of technology’s biggest and brightest names. The city’s quaint downtown area has transformed into an artists’ community with art galleries and studios, live music venues and community and professional theater companies.


The Great Egret is one of many species of birds that have been spotted at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (pictured) (Photo by John Wise)

Stop and smell the flowers at the Lloyd Baron Rhododendron Garden at Rood Bridge Park. Tended to by a group of volunteers, this community garden features hundreds of varieties of species and hybrids of rhododendrons, plus thousands of “companion” plants surrounded by walking paths, creeks and woodlands. Also in Hillsboro is Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, a 725-acre wildlife preserve featuring 4.5 miles of trails, wildlife viewing blinds, nature center and interpretive center that houses the only known authentic eagle’s nest on public display.


Hillsboro is home to two unique museums both appealing to all ages. The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals showcases the world’s finest collections of crystals, fossils, meteorites, petrified wood, gems and more.  Near the Hillsboro Airport is the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum, a “living history” museum/working hangar focusing on aircraft from the jet age and Cold War era. This fall, these two museums will get a new neighbor, so to speak, when the venerable Washington County Museum moves into its new home in downtown Hillsboro.


Housed in the historic, former Hillsboro library, is Syun Izakaya, a popular local spot near Main Street.  Syun is modeled after small, rustic taverns that are popular gathering places in Japan, and is consistently rated as having the best sushi in the Greater Portland region, and has been included among the best in the U.S. In addition to sushi, and an impressive saké menu, other Japanese dishes are included on the lunch and dinner menus. Located in a rural area of Hillsboro are two “hidden gems”: Cruise In Country Diner, a ’50s-style burger and shake joint, and South Store Cafe, which specializes in sandwiches, soups and salads.   (For more dining options throughout Washington County, visit our website.)

Several farms in Hillsboro, such as the Smith Berry Barn (pictured), offer ready-picked or "u-pick" produce. (Photo by Allison George)


Main Street Hillsboro is filled with charm and a collection of shops that harken back to a simpler time. This artistic center of downtown Hillsboro features art galleries, live theater and more, and includes the Glenn and Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center, which hosts live music, spoken word performances, informal lectures, art exhibits and art classes.  Also in downtown Hillsboro is the Venetian Theatre and Bistro, a bustling restaurant, movie and performance theater, which is home to local  professional theater company Bag&Baggage.

Antique shops, a book store, home-brewing supply store (home beer brewing, winemaking, soda making and cheese making supplies), bead store, garden shop, theater and restaurant align the historic main street. While on Main Street, check out the Hillsboro Pharmacy and Fountain, and old-timey store and soda fountain hangout serving  breakfast, lunch, ice cream.  or an old-fashioned malt, float or milkshake. (For more shopping options in Hillsboro, visit our Shopping in Hillsboro page.)


Although known for its high-tech contributions to the “Silicon Forest,” Hillsboro has a vast number of farms and farmers markets, making it a renowned agricultural zone, as well. More than two dozen nurseries and u-pick farms offer crops ranging from berries to pumpkins, while five farmers’ markets provide farm-fresh shopping nearly every day during peak season.  See the list of farms and farmers’ markets in Hillsboro.


Hillsboro is becoming the hub of Oregon’s Washington County’s burgeoning wine, beer and spirits scene. This area now is home to five wineries–Freja Cellars, Garden Vineyards, Helvetia Vineyards, J. Albin Winery and Oak Knoll Winery– three breweries– Ambacht Brewing, Vertigo Brewing and the brewery at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Imbrie Hall– and Big Bottom Whiskey, the area’s only spirits tasting room.


Plan a weekend or week-long getaway in Washington County’s Hillsboro. Check out these hotels and motels in Hillsboro.

Exploring the Outdoors: Birds, Snakes and Venemous Creatures

Posted on: May 22nd, 2012 by Sylke Neal-Finnegan No Comments

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.

The beauty of spring is on full display in Oregon's Washington County. (Pictured: Jackson Bottom Wetlands, May 2012))

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.

Winged Opportunities in Washington County

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 by Angie Marsh 2 Comments

As migratory songbirds flutter into the area this spring, their presence will be captured on cameras, celebrated with a festival and altogether watched and enjoyed. Whether it’s joining in the weekly “Lunch with the Birds” event or enrolling in the workshop “Wildlife Photography Opportunities in Oregon,” this is a time to celebrate a changing season for birdwatching.

Migrating waterfowl are spotted in the area every spring. Contest photo by Shawn Weishaar.

Visit Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in Hillsboro this spring to see the migratory birds that are arriving. A “Spring Bird Walk” is Wednesday, April 4, at noon that follows mostly flat trails around the Preserve and to the feeding stations to observe the visiting birds. “Lunch With the Birds” is Wednesdays at the  Preserve in Hillsboro and typically offers sightings of bald eagles and great blue herons; migrating species are seen in spring as well.

The Audubon Society of Portland hosts a walk with two leaders around Dawson Creek Park in Hillsboro on Sunday, April 8 to see an assortment of waterfowl as well as Acorn Woodpeckers. Bring binoculars and meet at 9 a.m. at the north end of the parking lot of the Hillsboro Library at 2850 NE Brookwood Parkway in Hillsboro; the walk is until noon.

In May, join Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge for three days of guided workshops, field trips and seminars during the new three-day event, “Focus on Nature: A Weekend of Learning About Wildlife through Your Camera Lens.” Presenters include well-known nature photographers, optics specialists and local birding experts; options include nine fee-based classes and two free workshops, which run Friday, May 11th through Sunday, May 13th at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood. The signature event will be an evening presentation by Arthur Morris, a premier bird photographer and author.

Also in May is the Tualatin River Bird Festival, a signature annual event that offers bird and habitat walks, workshops and winery eco-habitat tours. This year it runs Friday, May 18 through Sunday, May 20, at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and includes a diversity of family-friendly activities celebrating wildlife and wild places. Participate in guided bird and habitat walks and hands-on conservation activities geared toward kids, such as building a bat house. Enjoy live bird shows, music, storytelling and food. Go canoeing with the Tualatin Riverkeepers (in Tigard). Listen to a presentation by John Muir about the history of American conservation. View the winning photographs of the recent nature photography contest. Explore exhibits and products promoting wildlife and greenspaces. On Saturday, there will be free offsite parking and a shuttle service. This event is hosted by the Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more about birds in the area, use the comprehensive guide “Watchable Wildlife.” Be sure to check out our list of area parks for ample bird-watching opportunities throughout the County as well.

Surviving Winter Break: Escape to Oregon’s Washington County

Posted on: December 9th, 2011 by Sylke Neal-Finnegan No Comments

Let’s face it, by the time winter rolls around, we’re ready for a break, and if you have kids-especially teenagers–you know they are chomping at the bit to get out of the house. Why wait until summer for a weekend or week-long getaway? Winter is a fabulous time to venture to Oregon’s Washington County.  The following is quick look at what’s going on this season:

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals

FOR ARTS & CULTURE BUFFS: ‘Tis the season for arts and culture to take the spotlight, from performing arts to art exhibitions.  

  • Local professional theatre companies Bag&Baggage and Broadway Rose offer a year-round slate of productions, including special holiday-themed performances.
  • The Glenn and Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center has a strong performing arts calendar featuring a diverse array of musical performances, spoken word and poetry readings.
  • Through April 12, 2012, the Washington County Museum is home to its latest exhibit, Snapshot!, an impressive and extensive collection of photography equipment, objects depicting home and farm life and numerous historic images.
  • Print Arts Northwest has a calendar of several different art exhibitions with varying themes, featuring established and up-and-coming artists from the Pacific Northwest.

See the complete list of performing arts companies and venuesart galleries and museums and historical sites in Washington County.

FOR TEEN SPORTS FANS: See the brightest high school athletes compete in the annual basketball tournament and slam dunk contest.

Watch the college and NBA stars of tomorrow duke it out on the basketball courts when the annual Les Schwab Invitational hits the court December 26-30. This year’s tournament features the top basketball teams in Oregon and welcomes nationally ranked teams Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA), Yates High School (Houston, TX) and Riverside Academy (New Orleans, LA).

Great Blue Heron (Photo: Ed Bustya)

FOR WILDLIFE ENTHUSIASTS: Catch a glimpse, or take a photo of wildlife and birds as they “winter” in Oregon. 

Not all birds fly south for the winter. Various species prefer to stay in the peaceful nature preserves of Washington County. Heron, geese, eagles, hawks, pheasants, quail, chickadees, wrens, and the occasional seagull, along with beavers, otters, coyote and deer, can be spotted in various locations throughout the area. Best places to view wildlife are the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (TRNWR), Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve and Tualatin Hills Nature Park, to name a few.  See what common, uncommon and rare species of birds and more can be found with the TRWNR’s handy Watchable Wildlife guide (PDF).



FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY: The family that plays together will find a host of winter-fun activities in Oregon’s Washington County.

It may be a challenge to find activities that will entertain teens, while inspiring adults.  Try these family-friendly ideas on for size:

Countless hours of activities and a multitude of attractions are waiting to be explored in Oregon’s Washington County.  The question isn’t what can you do in Washington County? It’s when can you get here?


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