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Mud Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pelican pod on Round Lake, Sauvie Island (bobcat)
Great blue heron at Sturgeon Lake (bobcat)
Looking up the Gilbert River from Big Eddy (bobcat)
Common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), Gilbert River (bobcat)
The loop around Mud Lake (bobcat) Courtesy: Gaia Topo


Hike Description

This loop in the northwest quadrant of Sauvie Island, the largest island in either the Columbia or Willamette rivers and about the size of Manhattan, takes you on a bucolic tour far from the madding crowd under arbors of ash and across narrow causeways between shallow lakes. The presence of grazing cattle adds to the pastoral ambience. The area is only open to hikers from mid-April to the end of September, but you will still be treated to the sights of large wading birds, such as great blue herons and common egrets, as well as large pods of white pelicans. However, high water levels will make parts of this loop very muddy in the spring, with some sections being totally inundated. In other words, this is basically a mid July to late September hike if you want to complete the whole loop.

A road track leads across a weedy cow pasture flourishing with dock, pennyroyal, and path rush. You’ll see Round Lake to the left: check its shores for pods of pelicans, roosting common egrets, and great blue herons. Tree swallows swoop over the water nabbing their insect prey. Cross an ash-shaded depression, which may have some water in the spring, and reach another meadow. Then keep right where the vehicle track splits. Once more under shady ash trees, you’ll see a slough to the right which empties into the West Arm of Sturgeon Lake. Aquatic plants such as wapato, yellow water lily, and ladythumb grow close to shore. You’ll also notice Mud Lake to the left as you walk along an increasingly narrow peninsula. After passing hunting blind #3, you’ll reach the Narrows between Sturgeon Lake and its West Arm (see the Oak Island Loop Hike). After the last blind, you’ll come to a rocky road track.

Bear left here to cross the low point between Sturgeon Lake and Mud Lake. (These causeways prevent invasive carp from infecting Mud Lake and consuming all its aquatic vegetation.) You’ll rock hop here, but also look north to see if you can get a view of Mount Saint Helens. Another slightly more elevated causeway takes you to an island with a cow trail leading west. Then a third causeway links you to Ammunition Point, a long narrow peninsula that divides Mud Lake almost in two. A cow trail also leads west to the end of Ammunition Point. You’ll also get views across the main pool of Sturgeon Lake to the east. You’ll hike through glades of ash trees until you reach the open space at the Big Eddy Trailhead, where there’s a port-a-potty and fishing platform at a 90-degree bend in the Gilbert River.

For a diversion, you can hike to the right along the Gilbert River, named after a 19th century French Canadian trapper. The trail passes close to the steep bluff above the river, which flows north out of Sturgeon Lake. There are many shady retreats on the bluffs for cows and humans alike. In open areas, the profuse blackberries ripen in August and provide a delicious dessert. Turn back when you reach Sturgeon Lake at an area known as The Wash.

From the Big Eddy Trailhead, begin walking west along the gravel road for 0.7 miles. This quiet road takes you along a shady slough and then reaches pastureland near Grassy Lake. When you reach the signpost at NW Sauvie Island Road, turn left, and walk south under tall cottonwoods for another 0.7 miles. At one point, you’ll get a glimpse across the Multnomah Slough to the Scappoose Dike north of Chapman Landing. Soon enough, you’ll reach a boat launch ramp to Round Lake and the pullout where you parked your car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $10 parking permit required (purchase at Cracker Barrel Grocery or online)
  • Port-a-potty
  • Open 4:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Dogs on leash
  • Open to hikers mid-April - September 30th. Water levels vary during the year; the entire loop may only be accessible from mid July


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

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More Links


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.