Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge– Portland’s Premier Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts:

Location: Sellwood neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

Land Agency: Portland Parks and Recreation

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 60 feet

Contact: Portland Parks and Recreation

Notes: dogs must be leashed

Access: From Ross Island Bridge follow US 26 east (Powell Boulevard) immediately turning right onto SR 99E (SE McLoughlin Boulevard). In just over one mile exit right onto SE Milwaukie Avenue proceeding south .1 mile to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly; dog-friendly; bird watching, historical, snow free winter hike


Once destined to become an industrial site, this 170-acre tract of forest and wetland in the heart of Portland, became the city’s first formally dedicated urban wildlife refuge in 1988. Oaks aren’t abundant here—but cottonwoods are, along with eagles, waterfowl, and great blue herons, Portland’s official bird.

From the trailhead follow a paved path from an urban environment into an area of meadow, woodlands and wetlands. Soon coming to a junction, head left on a dirt trail. You’ll be returning on the paved path right. The path skirts the base of a bluff. Above are houses and civilization, but you are surrounded by trees. Continue hiking, winding along the edge of a sprawling wetland.


The Springwater Trail makes for a nice long distance bike ride or running route through the city.

An imposing mausoleum soon interrupts the mostly natural scene. But the walls facing the refuge became the country’s largest hand painted outdoor mural in 2009; depicting native wildlife and vegetation allowing the seven story building to “fit in.” Children will love it. Can you identify all of the critters on the wall?

The trail continues around the wetland coming close to water’s edge a couple of times allowing you to put those binoculars to work. Look for pintails, mallards, coots, or widgeons.


One of the few remaining “Trolley Parks” on the West Coast.

Eventually come to a meadow on the south end of the refuge. Trails left head to Sellwood Boulevard and Sellwood Park. Continue across meadow passing beneath a railroad underpass coming to the paved Springwater Corridor Trail and the Oaks Amusement Park. Opened in 1905 and now run by a nonprofit corporation, the small and delightful Oaks Park is one of the oldest continuously run amusement parks in the country.  Admission to the grounds is free and the rides are modestly priced. Treat the kids or continue hiking by following the Springwater Corridor Trail north. A former rail line extending from just south of downtown all the way to Boring, it weaves together several parks and greenbelts.

Construction will begin in March of 2020 and last until May on a new viewing platform. The platform will allow you to view a large expanse of the bottoms that were restored in 2018.

After hiking .7 mile on this popular biking and running trail, come to a junction. A short trail leads left through mature forest to nice overlooks on the Willamette River of East and Hardtack Islands. Check it out, or return right on paved path passing the Tadpole Pond frog study area, and coming to a familiar junction. Return left to the trailhead.

For more detailed information on this hike and many others in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area, consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).

Columbia River Gorge Cover

For more information on great places to visit, dine at and stay at in Portland, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Get the Guidebook

Speak Your Mind


HTML tags are not allowed.