Ben and I got into visiting wetlands when we lived in Tacoma and were only about 30 minutes from Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. It was a frequent destination for us and covered a lot of miles of estuary and wetland through a series of nicely maintained boardwalks. There's something perfect about birdwatching at a wetlands - you can take a camera and binoculars, there's tons of stopping and tons of slow walking in silence, and it's often absolutely beautiful and serene. Once we moved down to Portland, we set out to explore all of the nearby wetlands and, luckily, live on a river, so there are plenty a floodplain for ducks to hang out at. We've been to a few around the area - Stiegerwald along the Columbia River and Jackson Bottom out in Hillsboro. When we got Monday off from work and school and the sun was shining, it was clear we needed to knock another off the list.
We headed to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, only a short 5 minute drive from downtown Portland. I was surprised that Ben and I hadn't been before a we could have almost thrown a stone at the refuge. Just shows what Google can do for you! The refuge is a great place to walk, run, bike (through part of it), and walk dogs. A little meandering train goes along a pretty bluff that's on the flooded plain and there are ducks galore (we saw Merganzer, Teal, Mallards), great blue heron (en masse - we saw 6), cormorant laughing and diving for fish, red tail hawks soaring above, and many a little sparrow and songbird in the brush. We also heard a ton of frogs, but those are less fuzzy and therefore fall lower on my "excited to see" list.
The bluff train ended by looping back around the "oaks bottom" and onto a paved path along a railroad that a ton of bikers, walkers, dog walkers, strollers were populating. We turned back around and headed into the forest, but not before getting a cool view of the mural-ed building that abuts the refuge.
This spot is high on my "exploring? bored? don't want to drive far?" recommendation list for Portland. It's best if you're looking for a good stroll (it's short, only about 1-1.5 miles on the bluff trail) or beginning to birdwatch. Joggers along the path and dogs don't make it a perfect, protected spot, but I still got some fun photos of birds and Ben and I saw a ton more with the binoculars!