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Grant's Getaways - Walk on the Wild Side

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on March 13, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM


If a community's wealth can be measured by its wildness, Washington County must be one of the richest places around.

That's especially true at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve near Hillsboro where you will see wildlife at every turn: a solitary eagle perched on watch, scurrying shorebirds probing muck of the marshes or v-shaped flights of Canada geese winging their way from this place to that.

Less than twenty miles from Portland, Jackson Bottoms Wetlands Preserve is about as grass roots as it gets, according to longtime environmental education specialist Sarah Pinnock.

She told me, "People come here because they want to learn about their natural neighborhood, and so and we make that opportunity available to them in any way we can because we really want to facilitate awareness about wildlife and habitats.

Born in the 1980's of a partnership between the city of Hillsboro, its citizens, the Unified Sewerage Agency and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, more than 700 acres of wasteland was transformed into a wildlife paradise.

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The preserve's wetlands and trails surround the JBW Education Center where hands-on exhibits teach you about the environment and in the middle of it all, a massive eagle's nest rules this roost.

The eagles abandoned the nest in 2002 because the giant cottonwood tree it was built in was about to fall down.

Volunteer crews from PGE helped remove the nest and then transported it to the Education Center a few years ago.

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JBW Director, Ed Becker, told me that it's been a hit ever since: "That nest is an extremely unique exhibit, and really it's become the centerpiece for us and visitors. There's nothing else like it in the country and it's just a wonderful thing for us to offer visitors."

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Exploring the preserve gets easier through March and April as it dries out and you'll have access to more than four miles of hiking trails. You'll want to dress warm and wear boots. You'll also want to bring binoculars because they can make a big difference in enjoying your views to the wildlife.

Once you've enjoyed the preserve, it's a short fifteen-minute drive to reach the new Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge near Sherwood.

It's a place that may leave you asking yourself, "Why is it I've never been here before?"

As Deputy Director, Chris Lapp, pointed out to me: "It's a surprise! It's a sense of discovery. Often, they weren't even aware that this place exists right at their own backdoor."


Located just off Highway 99, one mile north of Sherwood, Tualatin River Refuge is a wonderful example of the adage: if you build the habitat, the wildlife will come and stay and thrive.


People come to visit too because it offers exciting Walks on the Wild Side that are close to home and yet a million miles away from the city hub-bub, pavement and noise.

Established in 1992, the refuge opened to the public in 2007 and it is vast in scale for an urban wildlife area.

At more than a thousand acres, the refuge is best enjoyed along the "Refuge Trail," a mile long wheelchair accessible ribbon of wonder that skirts the wetland's perimeter.

Lapp noted, "When you get out on the trail, down on the floodplain and start to get into the diverse habitats, you can't hear anything - the urbanization has left and you're surrounded by natural sounds of the environment. It's an incredible experience that offers a real sense of escape."


Both of these wildlife areas and their Walks on the Wild Side offer getaway escapes that you'll be eager to explore - to get away from the rush of city life to experience the rush of wings.