What’s to Love: Right off the very busy highway 99W in Sherwood, OR is a very pleasant surprise. The first thing you’ll notice when pulling into the Refuge is the beautiful new interpretive center. The interpretive center houses exhibits, restrooms, a small gift shop, a spotting scope, and some very helpful and friendly volunteers. Because of traffic, getting to this place can be a real pain, but it’s definitely worth the trip.
The Refuge has a resident bald eagle that sits in a treetop about 1/4 mile from the interpretive center. Using their spotting scope, you’ll be able to get a pretty clear image of this beautiful bird. After checking out the eagle, head outside and explore the Refuge’s system of hiking trails. If you’re into birdwatching, bring some binoculars – there will be plenty of birds to check-out.
Caveats: Although a beautiful natural area, the Refuge is edged-in by a very busy highway 99W and what appeared to be a junkyard (complete with a loudspeaker system). Of course, there is the massive housing development cut right into a hillside. It’s quite unpleasant looking in several directions, especially when you’re sitting trying to enjoy the outdoors. Unless you have some budding ornithologists, your older kids will probably be bored out of their minds.
Distance from Portland: Approximately 17 miles from downtown Portland. The trip will probably take much longer than 17 minutes each way.
Recommended Ages: A great location for parents with newborns who like to hike. Toddlers and kids 8 and younger seem to do fine hiking on these short trails.
Parental Stress Factor: Very low stress! This is a really nice area to come and enjoy a little hiking and birdwatching. The stress may increase if your kids don’t want to hike.
Physical Difficulty: The interpretive center is fully accessible. For the most part, the trails are flat. There is a small hill going down into the hiking area.
Family Fun Factor: Low to Medium. Your kids will probably not be jumping up and down about this location. However – this is just my opinion – places like this are disappearing rapidly. I think it’s important to educated kids about the value of natural areas and how we must protect them. So in this case, a little whining is probably worth it!
Pet Friendly: Not a good place for dogs.
Insider Info: From their website: “The Refuge is now home to nearly 200 species of birds, over 50 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and a wide variety of insects, fish and plants. The Refuge has also become a place where people can experience and learn about wildlife and the places they call home.”
A couple of the smaller ponds are accessible via the hiking trails. My son and I tossed in some sticks and looked for water bugs. The gift shop has some very nice earrings for mom priced at under $10/pair. My son picked out two sets. They are made from recycled materials – very cool!
Family Tips: Be prepared for some nasty traffic snarls! You might want to call and talk to a volunteer concerning the best time to avoid traffic. A jogging stroller or backpack would both be fine for exploring the grounds. You may want to bring a light snack to enjoy out on the trails. In the summer, you’ll DEFINITELY need some heavy-duty sun screen. There are not many trees here for shade.
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