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Sitka Sedge Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
Beltz Creek Wetland from the Beltz Dike, Sitka Sedge State Natural Area (bobcat)
Western spiraea (Spiraea douglasii), Beltz Dike (bobcat)
Shore pine woods, Estuary View Loop (bobcat)
View to Cape Lookout from the beach (bobcat)
Dune goldenrod (Solidago simplex. var. spathulata), Kinnikinnick Woods Loop (bobcat)
The trails at Sitka Sedge State Natural Area (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Sitka Sedge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Kinnikinnick Woods
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 80 feet
  • High point: 45 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

The 365 acre Sitka Sedge State Natural Area was officially opened to the public in June 2018. Originally part of a farm where cattle were grazed, this expanse of wetland, mud flats, and dunes was purchased by wealthy investors who hoped to create an elite golf course here, one of those that require a $25,000 or so annual membership. Local and environmental groups mounted a decade-long opposition to the proposal, and eventually the investors sold out to Ecotrust, a West Coast group committed to environmental and social change. The land was then purchased through an agreement with the State of Oregon using lottery funds. The trail network here begins with a walk along a farm dike, and then involves two short loops through a vegetated dunescape with access both to the shallow Sand Lake Estuary and the beach north of Tierra del Mar (see the Sand Lake-Cape Kiwanda Hike).

The state park is named after Carex aquatilis var. dives, which is also common in the Cascades. Elk graze on Sitka sedge as do cattle. The juicy bases of the stems were consumed by Native Americans, who also used the tough leaves in basket making. However, the most common sedge in the park is probably the slough sedge (Carex obnupta), which dominates up and down the Coast and in the western Oregon lowlands.

The ADA-accessible half-mile Beltz Dike Trail begins behind the information kiosk, which displays a large map showing the trail system. You’re hiking along a dike built in the 1920s. To your left are freshwater wetlands where Reneke and Beltz Creeks run into the Sand Lake Estuary. The dike effectively shut off saltwater tide flows into this area, and allowed Farmer Beltz to establish wet meadows for grazing cattle. The two tide gates are now deteriorating and are no longer functioning as they were intended, so salt marsh plants are beginning to establish themselves once again. Red alder and Sitka spruce shade the trail in places, and elderberry, salal, evergreen huckleberry, black twinberry, evergreen blackberry, and western spiraea form thickets along the banks of the dike. To your right, you’ll see the vast expanse of the shallow Sand Lake Estuary, where sand bars and mud flats are exposed at low tide.

Reach a junction at the west end of the dike, and go right along a low sand ridge shaded by shore pines. At a boardwalk junction, stay straight (right) to continue on the Estuary View Loop. The trail undulates between walls of salal and evergreen huckleberry. Switchback up a sandy slope into denser woods. Dip and then rise to an overlook over the Sand Lake Estuary, from which you can get views to Whalen Island, another state park (see the Whalen Island Loop Hike) and across the bay to the Sand Lake Recreation Area, an ATV playground. The estuary will be an expanse of sand with a few channels at low tide; at high tide, it will appear as a vast, but shallow, expanse of water.

Past the viewpoint, you’ll reach a junction. You can go right here to reach the shore of the Sand Lake Estuary. Between March 15th and September 15th (snowy plover nesting season), you can explore to your right at low tide; you are not permitted to walk to your left, and dogs cannot be brought to this area. Head back to the main loop, and keep right. Most of this sand spit was a bare dunescape 100 years ago, but the introduction of invasive European beachgrass stabilized the dunes and allowed for the thickets of shore pine and Sitka spruce to establish themselves, thus reducing the nesting habitat for snowy plovers. Ignore spurs leading right and, at a rise, you’ll get a view south to Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock. At a somewhat confusing junction, you can go right and then right again to head out across the foredunes to the beach at emergency locator number 34B and the southern boundary of the restricted snowy plover nesting area (for a description of the beach hike here, see the Sand Lake-Cape Kiwanda Hike). To the north, Cape Lookout juts out imperiously into the Pacific, while Haystack Rock looms out to sea to the south.

Return from the beach, and turn right at the first junction; then keep right a few yards later. This is the beginning of the Kinnikinnick Woods Loop. The trail undulates through the dense shore pine and Sitka spruce thickets of the Kinnikinnick Woods. Stay right at another junction, and head through a dark tunnel of spruce. At another junction, go left (the trail to the right leads out to the beach), and hike in a more open shore pine wood. Pass a seasonal sedge pond, and hike on through a carpet of moss, lichen, and false lily-of-the-valley. Bracken ferns sprout here in the spring and summer. A short trail leads right to grassy Elk Knoll, where a bench allows you to stop and scan the freshwater wetlands south of the Beltz Dike. Continue on the loop through hobbit woods to a junction. Make a right, and hike 250 yards to another junction. Go right again to reach the Beltz Dike Trail and return to your vehicle.


Maps

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Restrooms, information kiosk with map, picnic tables
  • Dogs on leash
  • Stay out of the snowy plover nesting area March 15th to September 15th

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder

More Links


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.