What’s to Love: Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve has the distinct honor of being the location of Portland Family Adventures’ first “hosted” family event. In this case, our hike turned out to be a short, casual stroll in muddy conditions. However, the group persevered through the muck and had a good time overall. The land that is now the Preserve has a history of abuse, especially with pollution. While this location may not be on your radar, I would definitely return to hike more of the trails and do some serious bird watching, especially when in the Hillsboro area.
I like an underdog. As far as I’m concerned, the folks that help manage and protect this area have turned lemons into lemonade. The entire area could be a HUGE mess with dire ramifications for farmers and the general population surrounding the area. However, with dedication and hard work, the area was turned into a wetlands preserve and a beautiful Education Center was constructed in 2003. Miles of hiking trails were constructed all around the property and beyond the Preserve. Also (and the bottom line for me most often), my 7-year old son said, “This place is fun.”
While we couldn’t hike many of the trails due to flooding and an abundance of mud, the Education Center provided us with excellent shelter for snack time, a small gift shop, and an exhibition hall with a surprising number of hands on activities for kids. You’ll be surprised how much they were able to pack into the hall including a MASSIVE bald eagle’s nest. The Preserve estimates that the nest was built over a 10-year period. It’s the centerpiece of the room, and the kids (and adults!) were awestruck by it’s enormous size. Here is a slide show of all our pictures followed by a short YouTube clip.
Distance from Portland: About 15 miles from Portland. You’ll want to allow at least 30 minutes to get there. In traffic, it could be an hour or more. Here is a map form Google.
Recommended Ages: The hiking terrain and options are good for young kids (ages 8 and under). Unless they’re into bird watching, older kids will probably be bored with the hiking – it’s flat with a lot of open terrain.
Parental Stress Factor: Very low stress place! If you’re looking for a relaxing place to hike and hang out, this fits the bill. The only time I felt stress is when my kids were in the gift shop grabbing everything in sight.
Physical Difficulty: Education Center is handicap-accessible but the trails are not. Overall, the hiking is mostly flat and rated easy.
Family Fun Factor: Depends on how well your kids do hiking. If they like wandering around (lots of space here…didn’t feel confined, even while on trails), watching water, playing with sticks, looking for wildlife, you’ll probably have a great time. The Education Center is definitely a fun place. On a rainy day with kids who don’t want to venture out onto trails, you could be in for a very short visit.
Pet Friendly: Dogs are NOT allowed on the Preserve! Make sure you’re familiar with all the regulations.
Weather Considerations: In my opinion, the summer and fall would be the best seasons for a visit. If it’s just a rainy day, high water/mud won’t be an issue. However, if it has been raining quite a bit over a few days or more, you might want to check-out another hiking adventure. There is not a lot of tree cover, so if you do go in the summer, make sure you do so in the early morning. Otherwise, your kids will probably bake out in the open fields.
Insider Info: The back deck/viewing area of the Education Center is the perfect place for a lunch or snacks. The staff members working were very kind and helpful with our group, especially the kids. Information was plentiful and given out freely and with enthusiasm. It’s obvious that everyone takes a lot of pride in the this facility.
Family Tips: Before leaving, make sure you pack extra clothes including coats, shoes, socks, shirts, and pants. Have diaper wipes and/or towels ready in case someone puts their hands in the water or falls in!
The Helvetia Tavern (Hillsboro) is nearby and gets very good reviews for their food and atmosphere. There are also two of my favorite destinations out this way: Horning’s Hideout and Out of This World.
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