Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy – Swans, steelhead, and serenity on the Snohomish River

Take a stroll along the Snohomish River at the Bob Hierman Preserve.

Take a stroll along the Snohomish River
at the Bob Heirman Preserve.

Quick Facts:

Location: Snohomish River, south of Snohomish

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 80 feet

Contact: Snohomish County Parks and Recreation

Special Note: Dogs prohibited.

Access: From the city of Snohomish, travel south on SR 9 for 3.0 miles to the junction with SR 96 (Lowell-Larimer Road). Turn left here onto Broadway Ave and after .8 mile bear left onto Connelly Road. Continue for another .8 mile to Preserve parking area and trailhead located on your left.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, snow free winter hike, exceptional bird watching


Big puffy winter clouds reflect in Shadow Lake.

One of the prettiest and wildest spots along the Snohomish River, the 340 acre Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas Eddy nearly met a much different fate. For many years Teamsters Union president Dave Beck Jr. ran a gravel mine at the eddy. He then sold the property to a family that raised livestock on the surrounding floodplain. After that operation, plans were made to subdivide this flood prone property into a large housing development. That would have been devastating to the thousands of migratory birds that use this river stretch for wintering and a big blow to the anglers that used this property to catch steelhead. The Snohomish Sportsmen Association led by Bob Heirman rallied to have this property preserved, ultimately leading to its acquisition by Snohomish County Parks. And not only was this great news to the area’s fishermen and women, but also to area birdwatchers and hikers as well.

The preserve is one of the best places in Snohomish County for bird watching harboring not only wintering trumpeter swans but scores of other species as well. Herons, harriers, ducks, mergansers, eagles, hawks, sandpipers, woodpeckers, swallows, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and goldfinches can all be spotted at this preserve.

Most of the property is floodplain and during the winter months is saturated. So stay on the main trails and avoid the preserve when flooded. From the trailhead follow an old road now serving as the preserve’s central trail down a short but steep bluff to wetlands abutting the Snohomish River. Here two side trails take off in opposite directions to cloud reflecting oxbow ponds teeming with birdlife.

Check out both Robins Pond and Shadow Lake and be sure to have your binoculars and bird guides at hand. During the winter months these pools are bursting with ducks, grebes and swans. Then once content at the ponds, continue on the main trail across marshy meadows to a dike. Here follow alongside the Snohomish River continuing downstream taking in good views north across the river of Lord Hill, another wonderful county park.

Then at about 0.75 mile from the trailhead, come to a Y-intersection. Take the trail right across a damp poplar flat to reach a sprawling gravel flat along the river. Take time to explore the shoreline here or perhaps find a spot to cast your line for steelhead. Then retrace your steps to the trail junction and continue downriver for another .25 mile until a tangle of blackberries prohibits further exploration. For a variation on the return back to the trailhead, follow a parallel trail through meadows that were once used as pasture. Return to the preserve often.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy, visit for other great snow free winter hikes in western Washington? Check out my Winter Hikes of Western Washington card deck!

Winter Hikes Card Deck

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