TAKE REFUGE: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

Wood duck

A wood duck's brightly colored plumage makes it easy to spot.

Tualatin means “lazy river” to the Atfalati, an American Indian tribe that flourished along the river’s bank in northern Oregon until the mid-1800s. But the apt name also seems to jive with modern-day Portland’s hippie vibe.

Today, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, situated some 15 miles away from the city’s hustle and bustle, offers downtown urbanites a chance to chillax and enjoy nature.

The 2,000-acre refuge also provides a much needed respite for many a feathered friend journeying along the Pacific flyway from Patagonia in South America to Alaska. Large flocks of Canada geese, northern pintails and mallards can be observed feeding. While some birds take a quick pit stop here, others stay on the refuge to nest in the mix of forest, grassland and wetland habitats.

What to Do

At the new Wildlife Center, visitors can learn about the region’s rich history. The center has indoor and outdoor viewing areas, a nonprofit nature store, and plenty of exhibits to discover more about the lands and animals.

Wildlife here comes and goes with the seasons. In spring, yellowthroats and other songbirds serenade in chorus. In summer, breeding wood ducks make homes in hollow trees and logs near the water. Then, during fall and winter when the river overflows into the grasslands, several new plants and animals arrive. Bald eagles become regular visitors feeding on the abundance of small waterfowl and rodents. And rarer critters, such as the Peregrine falcon and the western pond turtle, can also be spotted on the refuge.

Hiking Trail

Hiking trails meander along breathtaking views of the refuge.

Deer, beaver, coyote and playful river otters are also a common sight.

Photographers can take great landscape shots from elevated parking areas, and there are plenty of overlooks along the trails to capture wildlife in action. Be sure to check out the information kiosk before hiking to learn about which animals to watch for. And don’t forget to  bring binoculars along.

For the community and the Fish and Wildlife Service, restoring and protecting the native habitats and fish and wildlife along the river basin is the refuge’s primary purpose. To prevent disturbing these creatures, biking is prohibited along the trails.

The refuge is accessible by Tri-Met bus route 12 which drops visitors off right at the main entrance.

With so much to see and learn, we doubt that you’ll feel all that lazy on your visit here. So take some time to answer the call of nature and TAKE REFUGE at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood, Oregon.