What’s to Love: Their message – “Audubon Society of Portland is devoted to the conservation of Oregon’s last remaining wild places. Our first articles of incorporation written in the early 1900’s reflect this sentiment, ‘to use any and all lawful means for the protection of the wild birds and animals for the State of Oregon and elsewhere.’ We have taken this task very seriously over the years.” (source) After seeing some injured birds live (falcon, owls, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk), I believe their commitment. However, I believe the Audubon Society is somewhat off the radar for family fun, but for me, it’s an absolute must for small children. Here is why…
Rehabbing birds: Where else can you see incredible birds of prey so close knowing they are getting the proper care to return them to the wild? My son watched in amazement as one of the workers held a falcon a few feet away from him on her gloved-hand. He was also amused by their large, turkey vulture who hopped up to a perch right while we were peering in at him.
Excellent hiking trails: Because the well-signed-trails are enclosed in a pretty small area, this is a perfect hiking destination for young children, especially toddlers. There are several loop options with plenty of diversions including shelters for snacks or a lunch. If you’re trying to get your kids interested in hiking, this is a great place to start.
Stream-bed access: One of the trails leads right to Balch Creek with a perfect bench right alongside the stream. In the summer, the water levels are very low, and it’s perfect for wading and looking for all sorts of water creatures. We saw trout, crayfish, salamanders, all kinds of beetles, and water skimmers. My son could have stayed in the streambed for hours just turning over rocks looking for bugs. We tossed some small rocks, hiked on the rocks and in the water and had an incredible time. He wanted to return the next day to keep exploring the stream.
Visitor’s Center/Gift Shop: The Visitor’s Center is a great option, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating. It has all kinds of stuffed animals (taxidermy) with an interactive, topographic relief map, books with comfortable chairs and a very nice gift shop. If it’s your first time, please stop in and talk with the friendly folks and pick-up a trail map. Here is a short video clip:
Caveats: This one is pretty easy, because it’s pretty obvious when you get there – limited parking with a potentially-dangerous exit onto Cornell Rd. Please be very careful coming out of their parking lot. The place itself is very quiet, but the Cornell traffic is always humming away in the background at busy times. Besides that, the Audubon Society is very high on our adventure list!
Distance from Portland: Within 5 miles of downtown Portland. Here is a Google Map!
Recommended Ages: They have several programs and camps for kids – there is just so much that it’s hard to document here. Check out this section of their website. If you’re going to see their care center and hike the trails, it’s perfect for young walkers. Kids 8 and older might get a bit bored walking around, but it depends on your kids.
Parental Stress Factor: Very low stress! I love this place so much because it’s so low stress and quiet! If you don’t want to hear the traffic on Cornell, move closer to the stream.
Physical Difficulty: Besides the first hill down into the nature area, it’s mostly flat to slightly rolling terrain. So the physical difficulty of the hiking is pretty easy. The trails are not handicap-accessible, but the Visitor’s Center and Care Center are accessible.
Family Fun Factor: High, if your kids enjoy wading, stream exploration, and/or hiking. If your kids are not into those activities, I would rate the family fun factor low. However, please remember that even “low” has plenty of potential for fun.
Pet Friendly: Absolutely no dogs, even on leashes!
Weather Considerations: The Audubon Society of Portland is open 365 days per year. Because there are indoor options, it’s a good trip in any type of weather.
Insider Info: There are about 4.5 miles of trails to hike. The stroll over to the batch of Old Growth trees is worth the trip, and you can easily make this a longer hike by connecting with the Wilwood Trail and/or Upper MacLay Park.
Family Tips: The trails are a bit tight for a jogging stroller. This is a great place to let your kids cut loose a bit. Bring them down the first hill in a backpack or other carrier, and they’ll probably want to get out by the time you get to the bottom.
Wear Crocks or Keen hiking shoes, because their feet will get wet if you do a bit of wading into Balch Creek. A snack and/or lunch is perfect in the pavilions or on one of many benches.
This is a great trip on a really hot day – there is plenty of shade on the hiking trails and soaking your feet in Balch Creek does wonders on a steamy day.
Other Posts of Interest...
Latourell Falls on November 20th, 2007
Government Cove Peninsula on August 27th, 2012
Leach Botanical Gardens on May 20th, 2010