Spencer Island — Wildlife refuge in the heart of the Snohomish River Delta


A bridge spans a breach in the old island dikes.

Quick Facts:

Location: Snohomish River Delta, Everett

Land Agency: Snohomish County Parks

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles

Elevation gain: none

Contact: Snohomish County Parks

Notes: Dogs prohibited; Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife manages northern half of island which is open seasonally to hunting.

Good to Know: Practice Leave No Trace, kid-friendly, snow free winter hike, exceptional bird watching, historical

Access: From Everett, take Exit 195 off of I-5 turning left onto East Grand Ave. In .5 mile bear right onto East Marine View Drive following for 1.0 mile to SR 529. Continue north on SR 529 for 0.5 mile turning right onto 28th Pl NE (signed for Langus Riverfront Park). Then immediately turn south onto Ross Ave. Bear left at .4 mile and continue on Smith Island Road.  At 1.0 mile bear right at a Y-intersection and continue another mile (passing the Langus Riverfront Park) to a small parking area on your right at a junction with a gravel road near the I-5 overpass. Park here; hike begins on dirt road heading east.

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



This historic jackknife bridge now acts as a gateway to Spencer Island.

Located just a few miles from downtown Everett, Spencer Island sits in the heart of the Snohomish River Estuary, a wildlife rich ecosystem where salt and fresh waters mix. Surrounded by snaking sloughs, this 400-acre island offers a slew of scenic delights from glistening mudflats to glimpses of snow-capped peaks. And the bird watching is superb.

Start your hike by walking east .6 mile on gravel 4th Street passing Everett’s sewage treatment plant reaching the trailhead at the old Jackknife Bridge. Alternatively you can walk straight on the paved Riverfront Trail to reach the Jackknife Bridge. While this route is longer—1.4 miles, it is much more scenic and interesting.

Now hike across the historic bridge.  The bridge spanned nearby Ebey Slough from 1914 to 1980. In 1993 it was moved here to Union Slough providing pedestrian access to Spencer Island. It is one of the last remaining bascule (counterweight drawbridge) bridges remaining in the country.

Upon stepping foot on the island, come to a junction. The trail left follows a levee north to open-to-hunting WA Fish and Wildlife land. It terminates in one mile at a breach. For the Spencer Island Loop follow the levee trail south. There’s a parallel boardwalk loop which you may want to walk when it is not flooded. In .2 mile, come to a junction with the Cross Island Levee Trail, your return. Continue right, soon arriving at a bridge, one of several spanning breaches in the levee. These breaches were intentionally made by land managers to allow much of the island to revert back to a tide-influenced wetland. Scan the reeds, cattails, and sedges for a myriad of waterfowl and songbirds. Enjoy too, the view east across the saturated flats to Mount Pilchuck and Three Fingers.


A lone great blue heron works a slough on Spencer Island.

Continue hiking on the levee trail towards the southern tip of the island. Alders line the way with the occasional birch and spruce adding a little arboreal diversity. The way now turns north following alongside Steamboat Slough. Cross another breach bridge and then turn left onto the Cross Levee Trail traversing wetlands teeming with life. Watch for hawks, herons, harriers, widgeons, ruddy and wood ducks. Look too for bald eagles, river otters, coyotes, and deer. Reach a familiar junction-turn right and retrace your steps back to your vehicle.

Before visiting you want to read this good but out-dated nature guide to the Snohomish Delta.



For detailed information (including maps) on this and other hikes in the area, pick up a copy of my Urban Trails Everett guidebook. Discover trails and parks throughout Western Snohomish County, Whidbey Island and Camano Island. Get your copy today and get outside!

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