Recently Troy and I got a little tired of being indoors and decided to go check out one of the nature preserves nearby. One of the things I love about Oregon is that there are several nature preserves and wildlife refuges within a very short distance of where we live. We’ve both lived in big cities and the main thing we both disliked about them was the lack of nature. Here, though, in Oregon, nature abounds and we love it.
The place we chose to go explore is called Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has been around since 1965 and consists of 2,700 acres of natural habitat for a variety of species. There are several places to stop and see nature inside the refuge. The first place we stopped was at Eagle Marsh. It is the largest marsh in the refuge is home to Canada geese, American white pelicans, American bittern, and northern pintail. I was amazed at how beautiful it is and really wanted to see some of those birds, but there weren’t any out when we were there.
You can’t wander through the area around the marsh, but there is a viewing kiosk with various informational panels and a wonderful view of the area.
If you look up while inside the kiosk you will see several strange features on the ceiling. At first I thought they were wasp nests, but then this little guy popped his head out. He’s a cliff swallow and is sitting in a nest made out of dried mud from the marsh.
After we left Eagle Marsh, we drove over to Ankeny Overlook. It has a short trail that leads to an overlook platform with informational placards.
The station at Ankeny Overlook isn’t covered like the one at Eagle Marsh and it gives a really great view of the preserve.
We didn’t spend very long at Ankeny Overlook before we headed over to Rail Trail. Rail Trail is a two-park walk. The first part is a wooden boardwalk over a marsh (it’s pretty cool) that ends at a bird blind on the edge of Duck Pond. That part is about .75 miles. If you go on past that, the boardwalk takes you out of the trees to a grass trail that skirts around Duck Pond and takes you to the opposite end of the parking lot. The whole trail is roughly 1.75 miles and is pretty easy.
Rail Trail starts out with a dirt path that goes around the edge of a forest.
After a few minutes it stops skirting the forest and goes inside.
Eventually the trail leads to a wooden boardwalk that weaves its way through the marsh to a bird blind overlooking Duck Pond.
We saw this while we were walking and I had to laugh. It’s pretty clever.
Once you leave the boardwalk you can go two ways, but only between April and September. If you turn right (which is what we did) you’ll go around Duck Pond via the Woodland Loop & Prairie Extension and end up back at the parking lot at the end opposite where you started. That trail is roughly a mile long.
If you go left you will loop around the pond and meet back up with the trail where the boardwalk began. Before meeting back up with the original trail there are various offshoot trails and loops that will take you further into the marsh. Depending on which ones you take, that will add .75 to 1.75 miles to your walk.
How To Get There: Take exit 243 off of I-5 and follow Wintel Road south around a bend and then keep your eye out for the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge sign. After the sign you’ll see various parking areas on either side of the road.