We are fans of the Columbia Slough. It is an overlooked environmental gem that weaves it way through east and north Portland. We love Whittaker Ponds, Smith and Bybee Lakes, and the historic Children’s Arboretum.
We spent part of last lazy Sunday at Whittaker Ponds after hitting Beacon Rock State Park. We watched fish, herons, swallows, and enjoyed the breeze through the trees.
Want to get a real feel for the Columbia Slough this summer? The Watershed Council has a variety of events that are just right for you!
If you are in the Newport Area, want an aquarium experience or just want to stretch your legs indoors check out the Hatfield Marine Science Visitor.
The center is operated by Oregon State University and has a series of exhibits about marine life and science. Many of the exhibits are interactive including a tide pool where kids (and adults) can touch sea stars, anemones, urchins, a skate and more.
Admission is free, although a donation is very welcome. It is a nice alternative to the nearby Newport Aquarium if you have only an hour or less to spend due to schedule or wiggly little ones.
Carrie Sturrock did a post at oregonlive.com on her recent experience at Whitaker Ponds with her girls. It was a reminder both of how drawn to the outdoors and nature children are and that there are many wonderful opportunities to get into the “great outdoors” right here in town.
We pulled together a list of some our oldie but goodie places in Portland for hiking. Check it out here.
We treated Tony’s Mom to a late Mother’s Day gift by taking her to Yachats last weekend. The weather wasn’t perfect – and goodness the gas was pricey!- but the trip was still wonderful. We have been to the coast in Winter, Fall, Spring, and Summer and it never disappoints.
This weekend, we did a lot of hiking (the rain is no problem for many of the hikes in the area such as Cummins Creek) , the Yachats farmer’s market was in full swing, we started every morning at our favorite local hot spot, and we went tide pooling in the area.
There are great tide pools in the Yachats area. We commonly see chitons, snails, limpets, barnacles, sea stars, mussels, anemones, crabs and more! We also love Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area near Newport for tide pools. But there are options closer to home – no full tank required!
If you are going to explore tide pools, be ready to get wet, wear some sensible shoes – maybe even some gloves, and be ready to do some scrambling on rocks to find some wonderful surprises! Consult a tide table and plan your exploration to coincide with low tide – which means being on the coast in the morning. Watch out for exposed animals as you walk along. For the best viewing, head for the lowest tide pools that are closest to the ocean. In the lowest pools, you are likely to see the most activity as well as the greatest variety of animals. But be mindful of the tide location and of the ocean at all times – don t let yourself get stranded or surprised by a rogue wave.
When viewing the pools, tread lightly and be respectful of the animals. Don t pry any animals from their locations. A gentle touch on a sea star by a curious little girl (or excited adult) is not entirely out of line but try to avoid touching of the animals as much as possible.
Also, these are great areas for a picnic, so pack a meal to enjoy once your exploring is over. When you are ready to go, leave everything where you find it – except for garbage! Pack out any trash that you find (or any trash that you brought). It is never too early to instill some outdoor ethics in your kids.
Supporters of keeping Colwood National Golf Course zoned as open space have unveiled a new website that outlines the problems that would result from allowing industrial development on this golf course. The purpose of the website is to provide interested citizens with a way to get informed on the issue and to take action; any time day or night.
The rezoning of Colwood is opposed by numerous neighborhood, environmental, and business groups including the North Northeast Business Association, the Concordia Neighborhood Association (CNA), and the Audubon Society. These disparate groups oppose the rezoning because it would result in a permanent loss of open space, negatively impact the wildlife and habitat of the Columbia and Whitaker Slough, and increase pollution in North and Northeast Portland.
More info can be found at KeepColwoodGreen.com
Come along with Mike Houck for a stroll around the 160-acre Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. This trip is
appropriate for families. The walk is a two-mile loop on both paved and uneven dirt paths.
Registration at www.audubonportland.org/trips_classes_camps/adult_programs/wildcity or call 971-222-6116
Come along with Mike Houck for a stroll around the 60-acre Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Mike has led tours t the Bottoms for over 30 years and is intimately familiar with the history of Oaks Bottom being designated as Portland s first official urban wildlife refuge.
This trip is appropriate for families. The walk is a two-mile loop on both paved and uneven dirt paths, with two moderate hills.
Advanced registration required. Call 971-222-6116
So I am fixing the gutters on Saturday and Jen asks, “When will you be done? ” I say, “About 6-ish, why? ” “Well I may have a surprise if we can all be ready to go around six.”
So 6:15 rolls around and we are all piled in the car. A picnic has been packed and neither Mila nor I (nor Gael for that matter) have a clue to what surprise awaits. As we near Chapman Elementary around 6:30, we start seeing folks walking with THEIR picnics and lawn chairs and such. I don’t see a stage or any obvious happening going on. We park and walk over to the school. So what IS going on, I wonder? Look up in the sky is the answer.
I see a sizable flock of birds – Vaux’s swifts to be exact. The birds are the show. We find a spot on the lawn and chat with other parents; there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. Mila grabs a piece of cardboard and goes “sledding” down an adjoining hillside with other kids.
As dusk nears the sky fills with more and more swifts. What looks like about a hundred birds builds to several hundreds and then to THOUSANDS of birds. They dart this way and that and fall into formation creating a huge funnel cloud of wings. They pivot around the enormous chimney on Chapman Elementary School; it use to exhaust the school’s furnace. The crowd is a sea of craned necks and everyone’s anticipation builds as it seems that the flock’s momentum is increasing.
Suddenly the tension is broken as a hawk comes swooping in for dinner. The swifts break formation and dive repeatedly at the intruder. After some effort, they successfully drive it off. The tension builds again, the funnel of birds returns, and then -without any warning- ALL of swifts fly INTO the chimney!
The flock is so dense that from a distance it must look like smoke is flowing back to its source. The audience erupts in applause. Wow, is all I can say.
Pack a picnic, brings some cardboard, dress for the weather and get out there soon because this unique evening dance typically ends by September 26. You can find out more info on the Chapman Swift Watch on the Audubon Society website.
photo by Steve Warner
This is another note from our trip to Reno. Jen is a NV native and all of her family is in the Reno-area, so we visit the area quite a bit.
Reno has been going through a lot changes in the past few years, they seem to be moving away from gaming and developing a more “family-friendly” environment. This is a work in progress but there are more and more opportunities for families to relax and enjoy themselves in the area.
In the past few years, the city has been redeveloping the area around the Truckee River which flows through town. Known as the RiverWalk there are a number of shops and cafes as well as sculptures and other features to view in addition to the river.
They have also been making changes to the river. Using concrete and 8,000 tons of rocks they contoured about 1/2 mile of the river into rapids for white-water kayakers. They have also created areas on the river that are perfect for families to take a dip. These areas are primarily adjacent to Barbara Bennett Park.
We went playing and wading in the Truckee on this trip. Mila loved splashing the in water and hopping on the rocks. Afterward we strolled along the RiverWalk to our favorite indepedent coffee shop in Reno: Dreamer’s.
A unique part of the river that we visited on this trip for the first time was the Oxbow Nature Study Area. This wildlife and plant preserve is located on the Truckee River at the very end of Dickerson Road. The area is dedicated to preserving the plant and animal life found in the Truckee Meadows area and it features a two-mile interpretive trail that is level and very kid-friendly. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.
We are still in Sparks, NV and, yes, the store is still open thanks to Abigail, Amy, and Shawna (but we are closed on Independence Day). Yesterday we loaded up the van and drove about 45 minutes to the Animal Ark.
The Animal Ark is a non-profit wild animal-rescue sanctuary and nature center that is in the Red Rock area. They take care of wildlife that can not be returned to the wild. In almost all cases, the reasons these animals cannot return is due to human impact. Many of the animals were illegal “pets” and others were bred for the entertainment industry. After reading the stories of many of the animals housed there, I may avoid any films featuring wild animal “actors.”
The facility is laid out on 30+ acres and we spent a few hours there seeing and learning about the animals. The volunteers and staff were very welcoming and informative. And the enclosures are well designed both for excercise of the animals and viewing by the public. We saw tigers, a cougar, black bears, all variety of foxes, birds of prey, wolves, coyotes (including some very young and cute pups!), leopards, cheetahs and much more.
The cheetahs were quite something. Apparently cheetahs in captivity often suffer from digestive and kidney problems this may result from not getting proper excercise. During the summer the Animal Ark cheetahs are allowed to run at high speeds – up to 65 miles per hour!- by using a unique system system using a winch and a plastic lure. After they do the run, they are given a meal. The idea is that this better imitates cheetah habits in the wild. At this point the Ark cheetahs have not exhibited any of the digestive problems normally associated with cheetahs in captivity.
Once a month the “cheetah run” is open to the public. Seeing a cheetah in action running at top speed? I’m there! We’ll definitely be timing a future family trip to see it.
The Animal Ark is open to the public April – October, 10:00am – 4:30pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $7 per adult, $5 for youth, 2 and under is Free.
Getting There: from Reno, take US 395 North to Red Rock Road (exit 78). Turn right on Red Rock Road and drive 11.5 miles to Deerlodge Road. Turn right and look for the sign.