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Willow Bar Islands Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking up the beach, Willow Bar Islands (bobcat)
Mt. St. Helens from Willow Bar Islands (bobcat)
Stranded eulachon (smelt), Willow Bar Islands (bobcat)
The beach hike on Lower Willow Bar (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Willow Bar Islands TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lower Willow Bar Point
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 10 feet
  • High Point: 10 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Nettles

Contents

Hike Description

A series of public beaches lines the northeast shore of Sauvie Island. The longest is described in the Warrior Point Hike, but Willow Bar Beach also offers some seclusion once you have traveled away from the highly popular access point. The site attracts fishermen, sunbathers, and swimmers in the summer and can be very crowded on warm, sunny days. However, after the first quarter mile or so, you are left with splendid vistas of Mount Saint Helens and your footprints mingled with the tracks of deer and raccoon in the sand. The Willow Bar Islands are now a spit but formerly formed a group of shoals separated by shallow sloughs. Early navigators termed this the Lower Willow Bar, while the Upper Willow Bar was in the vicinity of Frenchmans Bar on the Washington side of the river.

Walk out to the beach, where you will get a face on view across to Mount Saint Helens. You can keep to the beach or hike a cottonwood-shaded vehicle track and then a footpath through blackberries and horsetails before dropping to the sand. In late winter, the corpses of spawned out smelt (eulachons) may have washed ashore and California sea lions may be blaring and quarreling in the river. Past the last vehicle-accessible area, there will be fewer people and you may have the beach to yourself.

Under the cottonwoods, there’s a fairly dense scrubland of willow, red osier dogwood, Armenian blackberry, nettles, wild rose, and reed canary-grass. If you venture inland, you’ll have to contend with these although, farther south, there are a couple of large moss-covered meadows. Keeping to the beach, look up for bald eagles and hawks in the cottonwoods. At the end of the main strand, a short trail leads up and over riprap to a small beach. From here, you can go up to a grassy, blackberry-covered area with a few large driftwood logs that marks the north end of the island (It’s a blackberry tangle at the actual point itself). From this vantage point, Mount Saint Helens seems to loom close and Mount Rainier just peeks above the hills. To the east, one can see Mount Adams and Mount Hood.

It’s a tangle of brush in the interior of the island, so a full loop would be an uncomfortable undertaking. Instead, stroll back to the parking area via the beach.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Gate on access road locked at 10:00 p.m.
  • $10 day-use fee
  • Dogs on leash near trailhead
  • Port-a-potties

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

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Contributors

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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.