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Pigeon Butte Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pigeon Butte from Cheadle Marsh, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Dwarf owl clover (Triphysaria pusilla), Cheadle Marsh (bobcat)
Cheadle Barn, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus), William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Dusky Canada geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis), William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Route of this loop shown in red (bobcat)
Poison Oak

Contents

Description

The southern section of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, named after one of Oregon’s pioneer conservationists, has gravel maintenance tracks and grassy paths that are open to the public between April 1st and October 31st. A loop route will take you past a marsh and Muddy Creek, up a low hill to see the magnificent Cheadle Barn, and then across fields to the low volcano of Pigeon Butte. From here, you can walk north to marshes and ponds in the center of the refuge before using a boggy track to return to Bruce Road. To finish the loop, it’s about a mile of birdwatching with binoculars back to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead. A short loop of only 1 ½ miles is possible using the Cheadle Marsh Trail. A short lollipop loop of 2 ½ miles can also be made from the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead. For a much longer loop that takes in almost everything the refuge has to offer, combine this loop with the Finley Refuge Loop Hike.

Head past the gate on the east side of the parking area, first taking in the view to Pigeon Butte across marshes and fields. This is a grassy path, not often mowed, lined with oak and ash trees dripping with witch’s hair. A hedge of western spiraea runs along one side. The raised track continues through the wetland, crossed by many beaver trails. Large-leaf lupine sprouts trailside. On the right is an oak/ash swale. A loop of meandering Muddy Creek comes close to the trail. Pass a body of open water with a clear view to Pigeon Butte, named after the band-tailed pigeons that flock to a mineral spring on its flanks. Soon reach a trail sign and go left around the base of a low hill.

Reach another sign in a small grove of apple trees and head up the slope on a vehicle track to the Cheadle Barn, flanked by ancient fruit trees and a grove of locusts. Heed the signs and do not enter the structure. To the east of the barn, lilacs, daffodils, flowering quince, and Spanish bluebells indicate the former homestead garden. An oak woodland dresses the northern slope of this hill.

Drop back down the hill past the sign to a pond and reach a road junction (To make your hike very brief, you can go left here to return to Bruce Road). Go right on the gravel road here and head along the pond, rising slowly towards Pigeon Butte. Follow the road where it makes a 90-degree turn. Note serviceberry blooming on the lower slopes in the spring. Western meadowlarks, Oregon’s state bird, will use them as perches to warble their signature melodies.

Near the top of the rise, go left on a grassy track which ascends the slope of Pigeon Butte. Skirt the butte’s oak woodland. Note the irises blooming and the poison oak leafing out in the spring. Pass above a quarry and swing around to the west side of the butte. Oaks, madrone and some Douglas-firs dot the slopes. Take in views across the fields to the south. A trail leads up to the summit of the butte, which supports a sturdy oak woodland. There’s a viewpoint on the south side which takes in Marys Peak to the west and the Cascades to the east. You can then continue over the ridge and keep down the ridge to rejoin the Butte road and reach the junction on the shoulder of the hill.

Go left here to continue the loop, which from now on will be flat. The oak forest is to your left and open fields spread to your right. Come out in the open at the base of the hill. See an Oregon ash wood to your right and pass the shallow Finger Ponds. Reach a signed junction at the wide Cabell Marsh, and go left on the road. Walk along under lichen-draped ash trees and curve to the left. Reach the signed Cattail Pond and go left.

A road goes left along the pond. Reach an open field where you can scan for the elk that may graze here early or late in the day. Go right here along the edge of the field to a trail sign. A path leads into the dense thicket where elk take refuge. This trail is very boggy in the spring, so be prepared to get your feet wet. You will come to a junction at the end of the thicket.

Here go left to reach a vehicle track, passing between Pigeon Butte and Maple Knoll to the right. See a second quarry site on the slopes of Pigeon Butte. Walk down a pleasant avenue of Oregon white oak, Oregon ash, cottonwood, and willow. Reach a gate and the parking area at the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead. Now you need to walk a mile along Bruce Road to return to your car. In the spring, the open fields may still support large flocks of dusky Canada geese as they fatten up to head north to breed (The three Valley refuges - Baskett Slough, Ankeny, and Finley were established to protect this subspecies). Also scan a pond that you pass on your left for reed-dwelling birds, ducks, coots, and grebes, As a slight rise, pass an overlook on your right and the end of the Cheadle Marsh Loop on your left. Ninety yards later, come to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead.

Note: Some sections of this loop, especially the Cattail Pond path, may be closed off during very wet periods.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fee
  • No dogs allowed
  • Restrooms near refuge entrance on Bruce Road
  • Interpretive signs
  • Obey wildlife refuge No Entry signs
  • Loop open April 1st to October 31st

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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