What’s the Word?In Washington County, Oregon

Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Nature Passport: Rood Bridge Park

Posted on: November 17th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Rood Bridge Park is perfect for a tranquil stroll or as the jumping off point for a exhilarating adventure.

Rood Bridge Park is perfect for a tranquil stroll or as the jumping off point for a exhilarating adventure.

Tuck the Nature Passport into your camera bag for an easy guide to all-things wildlife in the Tualatin Valley. Knowing what flora and fauna makes each park and refuge its home will help your camera focus on the right subjects—and aid in capturing beautiful photos for the Focus on Autumn Nature Photo Contest. Who knows? Your picture could win you a prize package of pro-photography loot worth $2,500!

This week, we’re zooming into Rood Bridge Park & Rhododendron Garden. As the largest and most diverse park in Hillsboro, Rood Bridge Park is an oasis for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners and photographers alike. The 61 acres of walking paths weave through wetlands adjacent to the Tualatin River—home to happy ducks and western pond turtles—and enchanting wooded areas—the perfect resting grounds for pacific dogwood and native wildflowers.

And then, of course, there are the rhododendrons. While we’ll have to wait until spring for the big, bold colors of their bloom, rhododendron leaves are evergreen, creating an ever-lush visitor experience in the garden.

If you’re more of an adventurer than a wanderer, then make Rood Bridge Park the launching pad for your next on-the-go photography mission as there is boat access to the Tualatin River and the entry point to the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway!

Rood Bridge Park
Location: 4000 SE Rood Bridge Road, Hillsboro, OR 97123
Phone: (503) 681-6120
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily

Past Nature Passport Blog Posts:
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Cook Park
Cooper Mountain Nature Park
Fernhill Wetlands
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop
L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park
Magness Memorial Tree Farm

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

Live Love Cache

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
A spring day of geocaching at Jenkins Estate is a stellar way to experience nature.

A spring day of geocaching at Jenkins Estate is a stellar way to experience nature.

These days, technology infiltrates everything, including the outdoors. Geocaching is for tech nerds with hiking boots, sending adventurous souls on a treasure hunt using a Global Positioning System (GPS) to search for a “cache” of knickknacks hidden in the great outdoors. I, for one, was ecstatic to complete my first geocaching mission at Jenkins Estate. It did not disappoint.

There are four caches playfully concealed in the wood nooks and crannies of Jenkins Estate’s 68 acre property:

  • “T” Marks the Spot: N 45° 27.632 W 122° 53.620
  • Rock Chamber: N 45° 27.517 W 122° 53.356
  • Jenkins Estate Revisited: N 45° 27.755 W 122° 53.654
  • I:II Calculus: N 45° 27.890 W 122° 53.527
  • Out Behind the Shed: N 45° 27.714 W 122° 53.329

My two geocaching buddies and I chose the “Jenkins Estate Revisited” cache. While you can plug the coordinates into any GPS system, we used the “Geocaching Intro” smartphone app, which provides extra tips to newbies. With the right tools in hand, we entered the 2.5 miles of walking trails and—for a few moments—I’ll admit I forgot about the geocache. Spring bloom was intoxicating with the smell of soft soil and woodsy bark. I could see bright perennials and wildflowers peeking through the forest’s green. In a word: bliss.

After a pause for appreciation, I snapped back into cache-finding mode. As part of the geocaching code, I won’t spill where exactly we found the cache, but I will say that the search heightened my sense of awareness. Sure, I’ve appreciated the tall trees and the way the earth smells there after it rains, but looking for a hidden cache had me examining every leaf, fallen log, and creature-made trough. We only had to veer off the walking trail a bit, which gave us permission to experience nature from a new angle and with a new energy.

Of all the souvenirs one can take home from a visit to Oregon’s Washington County, a silly tchotchke from a local cache box might be one of the most fun. Completing our geocache mission, we dutifully replaced the toy knight we took with a locally-themed goody. Will you find it? Tell us if you do!

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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.

Quirky Roadside Attraction of the Month: Chief Kno-Tah

Posted on: November 22nd, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Chief Kno-Tah sculpture is a triple threat: artistic, historical, and a little bit quirky.

The Chief Kno-Tah sculpture is a triple threat: artistic, historical, and a little bit quirky.

We like road trips with a little quirk on the side. Even better when said quirk is accompanied by artsy and historical flair. With that in mind, we present this month’s Quirky (and Artsy and Historical) Attraction of the Month: Chief Kno-Tah. As far as roadside attractions go, this one’s a triple threat.

Chief Kno-Tah stands as an impressive wooden sculpture on the eastern side of Shute Park, where the Tualatin Valley Highway becomes SE 10th Avenue. While this totem-esque artwork was resurrected in 1987, its history goes back much further. Its namesake, Chief Kno-Tah, was a leader with the Willamette Valley’s Kalapuya Native American community. The story of Thanksgiving is one of both Native Americans and the pilgrims. Similarly, the story of the Oregon Trail is one of the Kalapuya people and the pioneers. With Chief Kno-Tah memorializing Oregon’s rich Native American history, it seems fitting to share a picnic of turkey sandwiches with Shute Park’s ever-present friend.

How did the Chief Kno-Tah sculpture come to reside in Shute Park? That’s thanks to the sculptor Peter Wolf Toth, who made Chief Kno-Tah the 56th installment in his Trail of the Whispering Giants series. The series pays homage to Native American communities across the United States and Canada, which is no small feat in concept or execution—the hard-carved wooden man with the braided hair and protruding feathers measures 25 feet tall and 250,000 pounds!

To experience the quirkiness of the sculpture, check out Chief Kno-Tah’s Facebook page where the “Chief” tells wood-pun jokes, pleas for candy, and invites visitors to take a picture with him.

Fun Fact: The Chief Kno-Tah sculpture was carved from the lumber of a local Douglas Fir. Not only is the Doug Fir Oregon’s state tree, but it’s also an excellent holiday tree choice. Take home a Douglas Fir to trim (instead of carve) at one of the holiday tree farms in Oregon’s Washington County.

Past Quirky Roadside Attractions:
Bomb Crater at Rock Creek Tavern
What’s Up, Harvey
A&W Burger Family
Dress like a Quirky Roadside Attraction

Trail of the Week: Gales Creek Trail

Posted on: September 30th, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Get a rush on the Gales Creek Trail!

Get a rush on the Gales Creek Trail!

Outdoorsmen, we have something for you. For the last installment of our Trail of the Week series, we’re upping the ante with Gales Creek Trail (pdf).  After warming up on the milder trails within Oregon’s Washington County, take the next step onto the slightly more vigorous hike found on the Gales Creek Trail. This trail offers the total outdoors experience: waterfall-laden hiking, camping, and even fishing.

From the trailhead, follow the path that runs between Gales Creek and the fern-covered hills. Traversing deeper into the flora, hikers get the treat of experiencing some of Tillamook State Forest’s most remote and scenic land. Standout findings on the trail include rustic log bridges, which carry hikers across the creeks and tributaries of the Wilson River. In the low morning fog, catch the haunting groupings of snags, which are standing dead trees left from the Tillamook Burn Fires of the 1930s through the ’50s. There chalky color and missing tops make them perfect perching grounds for hunting birds (and perfect aid for bird watchers!).  

Perhaps the most sparkling gem of the Gales Creek Trail is its smattering of waterfalls. The largest waterfall is also the last, ending on a treat. From the last waterfall, the trail pulls away from the water and ascents to Bell Camp Road. For those who prefer loop trails, combine Gales Creek Trail with Storey Burn Trail (pdf).

However, some forest lovers can’t help but extend their stay on the Gales Creek Trail into an overnight affair. For a dry or light-drizzle weekend, there are two stellar camping options:

  • Gales Creek Campground: Wilson River Hwy., OR-6, Milepost 35, Forest Grove; offers biking, camping and fishing
  • Browns Camp: Wilson River Hwy., OR-6, Milepost 33, Forest Grove;offers canoe access to the river, plus an off-highway vehicle area

Fast Facts:
Length: 11.4 miles
Type: hiking, mountain biking
Level: moderate
Trailhead: Highway 6 at milepost 35

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

Trail of the Week: Rock Creek Trail

Posted on: September 9th, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
After a frolic on the Rock Creek Trail, enjoy a treat at Rock Creek Corner. They're so local that even the building's exterior is made of local salvaged barn wood.

After a frolic on the Rock Creek Trail, enjoy a treat at Rock Creek Corner or Rock Creek Tavern. They’re so local that even the building’s exterior is made from the salvaged wood of once local barns.

Rock Creek Trail, despite its name, is far from rocky. It’s nicely paved path and gentle slope make for an easy walk, jog, or bike ride through a full scope of outdoor recreation hot spots: playgrounds, sports fields, ponds, meadows, forests, and wetlands.

Whatever brings you to Rock Creek Trail, start your journey at Bethany Lake Park. In addition to quaint fishing, here you’ll find a convenient trailhead for both the east side and west side routes of the Rock Creek Trail.

Cyclists may prefer the east side trail, which embarks on a longer 5-mile route. Take in gulps of fresh air as you pedal by open fields and meadows. While the trail is great for a solo joy ride, it’s also a friendly path for the little ones to practice being on two wheels. Not only is the Rock Creek Trail gentle, but also enticing with its string of playgrounds along the way. Say Ahoy, Matey! to Bethany Meadows Park, which has been affectionately dubbed “Pirate Park” by way of its two pirate ship play structures.

Keep going down the trail until you reach yet another playground at Kaiser Woods Park. Worn out from a day of play? It’s okay. Your ride back to the trailhead will be a literal breeze as you cruise downhill.

If you’d rather kick than pedal, the west side trail leads into the Rock Creek Soccer Fields. From Bethany Lake Park, simply take the bridge crossing over Rock Creek.

Returning from your playground date, gleeful bike ride, or rousing soccer game, why not grab some grub? Rock Creek Corner is a stone’s throw from the trailhead and—more importantly—it’s delicious and full of local charm. So local, in fact, that patrons often peek over the restaurant’s picket fence to see the garden where the mint from their mojitos and basil topping their pizzas comes from.

Fast Facts:
Length: East Trail is 5 miles, West Trail is 2.6 miles round trip
Type: walking, biking
Level: beginner
Trailhead: NW 185th Avenue and NW West Union Road, Portland, OR

Tune in next Monday! We’ll be chatting about Beaverton’s Westside Trail.

Read past installments of Trail of the Week:

Fanno Creek Trail
Tualatin River Water Trail
Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway (register for the Inaugural Ride here)

Harvest Splendor in Oregon’s Washington County

Posted on: September 4th, 2013 by Jackie Luskey 2 Comments
The Annual Corn Roast serves up over 4 tons of freshly picked, local corn!

The Annual Corn Roast serves up over 4 tons of freshly picked, local corn!

Harvest. It’s the time when we—quite literally—reap the rewards of a ripe season. Here in Oregon’s Washington County, the prime harvest months are among the best to visit because here harvest means so much. With an abundance of harvest events, see what harvest time means to us and to you.

49th Annual Corn Roast
Sunday, September 22, 2013 | 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. | Pacific University’s West Lawn of Marshall Hall

To see the immensity of one crop’s yield, the 49th Annual Corn Roast showcases heaps of fresh roasted corn picked that morning. Don’t worry, there will be more than enough. In years past, over four tons of locally grown corn has been consumed at this old-timey barbeque.

11th Annual Harvest Century Bike Ride
Sunday September 29, 2013 | 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | Hillsboro Civic Center

We’ve been gorging on harvest like Dionysus haven’t we? Sweat it out while still enjoying the views of this bountiful season at the 11th Annual Harvest Century Bike Ride. Cyclists pedal a 3 mile, 45 mile, 75 mile, or 100 mile ride through autumn foliage. To keep the Dionysus in us all happy, there is a pit stop at Montinore Estate.

Ponzi Harvest Tour
Saturday October 5-6, 2013 | 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. tours | Ponzi Vineyards

No talk of harvest would we complete without talk of wine. To tour a state-of-the-art winery while it’s in the midst of its full production, sign up for the Ponzi Harvest Tour ($50 per person). Their international harvest crew can’t wait to show off their amazing four-level gravity-flow winemaking facility.

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

Trail of the Week: Tualatin River Water Trail

Posted on: August 19th, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Paddling the Tualatin River, you'll see Oregon's Washington County in a whole new way.

Paddling the Tualatin River, you’ll see Oregon’s Washington County in a whole new way.

Every trail has its peak season. Whether it’s catching the autumn change of oak trees or it’s simply the perfect temperature for hitting the trail, we all feel the seasons through the changing nature of the trails we use. Water trails are, of course, no exception. In the last days of summer, feeling the soft splash of the Tualatin River come off of a kayak or canoe oar is nothing short of delightful.

Instead of the usual tromp through the forest, paddle down the Tualatin River Water Trail. To make it easy, the Tualatin Riverkeepers’ affordable kayak and canoe rentals are stationed at Cook Park—but only through Labor Day!

Along the 40 mile stretch of the Tualatin River Water Trail, paddlers can find swimming deer, turtles, eagles, and even otters. Nature lovers can truly unwind and experience wildlife from a new angle.

As the river is a friendly one (and a life jacket is included with your boat rental), The Tualatin River Water Trail is the ideal first experience for new kayakers and canoeists. Simply paddle at your own place and enjoy the easy-breezy style of water trail travel. Kayaks, canoes, and lifejackets are available to rent from the Tualatin Riverkeepers through September 2, 2013. The Tualatin Riverkeepers are located at Cook Park (17005 SW 92nd Avenue, Tualatin, Oregon). Rental hours are Friday through Sundays (and Labor Day), 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Rental rates are $30 per canoe or tandem kayak, $20 per solo kayak. After four hours, there is an additional $10 charge per additional hour of use.

Fast Facts
Length: 40 miles, with various access points    
Type: kayaking, canoeing
Level: beginner
Map: Tualatin Riverkeepers Paddler Map

Tune into the next installment of Trail of the Week! We will be shifting gears, going from paddles to pedals. With the Inaugural Ride for the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway less than a month away, we are thrilled to take some time to talk about how beautiful and fun this ride is. Can’t wait? Register for the Inaugural Ride now.

Did you catch our first Trail of the Week installment? Don’t miss out on the Fanno Creek Trail—it allows you to walk alongside the Tualatin River instead of paddling in it!

Introducing Trail of the Week

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
The Ki-a-Kut Bridge leads pedestrians and bicyclists over the Tualatin River.

The Ki-a-Kut Bridge leads pedestrians and bicyclists over the Tualatin River.

Welcome to the official kick off of our Trail of the Week series. We’re constantly amazed by all the ways to enjoy the outdoors here in Oregon’s Washington County. From sporty runs to lackadaisical strolls, take on the trails upon trails and experience the stupendous beauty of the area. And hey, we haven’t forgotten about our cyclists and kayakers. In our book, bike paths and waterways are trails of sorts, too. So let’s get this who on the road—err, I mean trail.

The Fanno Creek Trail  is the type of trail you’ll want to do again and again. In fact, many people do frequent the trail on a regular basis. As the trail meanders through three different cities (Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Durham), walkers and leisure bicyclists are easily elevated Zen moment.

Stroll through a green pasture that takes you into Cook Park. Newbie and seasoned birdwatchers gather to gaze at winged blackbirds, common yellowthroats, blue herons, and waterfowl in the lush wetlands. For those interested in more dainty creatures, just stop by the adjacent Tupling Butterfly Garden, which is satiated with lush flora.

Continuing on, you’ll see how the Tualatin River flows alongside the well-maintained path. Cutting under the trestle on the trail, walkers and bikers can turn left for Durham City Park or right onto the Ki-a-Kuts Bridge. The pedestrian bridge sports a gorgeous view, with moss covered oak trees bouncing their emerald hues off the soft gurgling Tualatin River below.  Upon crossing the bridge, the river floodplain leads into the Tualatin Community Park.

If you head north toward Beaverton and beyond, it’s worth taking at peek at the Fanno Farmhouse, home of the 19th Century onion farmer Augustus Fanno. The picturesque yellow house is as cute as can be. Imagine ol’ farmer Augustus taking in the same beauty as you just did over a hundred years ago.

Fast Facts
Length: 18.6 miles
Type: walking, biking
Level: beginner
GPS coordinates: 45.404, -122.764

Tune in next week! With a smorgasbord of trails—from a bit off the beaten path to more paved and friendly—we can’t wait to show off a new trail in each weekly installment.

Bike your way through Oregon’s Washington County with the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway.

Put a Bird On It

Posted on: June 20th, 2013 by Sylke Neal-Finnegan No Comments
Photo by B. Fredrickson

Photo by B. Fredrickson

Before I moved to Oregon, I wasn’t too keen on birds. In the desert, all of the birds seemed to be various shades of brown. Occasionally, one could see a quail running across the desert (usually followed by a jackrabbit), or more rarely, a roadrunner would scurry across the road in the rural desert (unfortunately, the birds were not being chased by a wily coyote).  But it didn’t take long after I settled here for me to change my mind about those fascinating creatures of flight.

During a recent outing in rural Washington County with my family visiting from the desert Southwest, we were amazed by the colorful birds in the sky–the graceful glide of a blue heron and the majestic, yet menacing, bald eagle in search of prey.

Even if you don’t have a bird “life list,” it’s hard not to be enthralled with the abundance and diversity of birds here in Oregon’s Washington County. You can quietly watch birds in flight at one of the many parks throughout the region. Among the best viewing places are restored habitats that are now home to hundreds of species of birds, such as the Fernhill Wetlands, Jackson Bottom Wetlands and the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.  Visit our Wildlife Watching page on our website for more places to watch birds and wildlife.

Photo by B. Fredrickson

Photo by B. Fredrickson

Now through November 3, 2013, the Washington County Museum presents a stunning and unique glimpse of wildlife, as seen through the lens of renowned naturalist and wildlife conservationist, William L. Finley (1876-1953). Aptly titled,Put a Bird on It,” this exhibit features 40 of Finley’s black-and-white bird photographs, celebrating his tireless advocacy for wildlife preservation.  The museum is open Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 12-5 p.m. (closed Monday-Tuesday). Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, students, active military and children 18 and under (children 3 and under are free).

Watch this Grant’s Getaways segment which makes a visit to the museum and the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.