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Snag Boat Bend Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Osprey, Snag Boat Bend (bobcat)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Snag Boat Bend (bobcat)
Oxbow lake, Snag Boat Bend (bobcat)
Viewing blind, Snag Boat Bend (bobcat)
The trails at the Finley Refuge's Snag Boat Bend Unit: yellow trails only possible at low water (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Snag Boat Bend TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Lake Creek Shore
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loops
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 40 feet
  • High Point: 255 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring into fall (seasonal closure)
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



The Snag Boat Bend Unit of the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge was added to the refuge system in 2000 after a land transfer from the Nature Conservancy, which had purchased the area from private landholders. An oxbow lake, Lake Creek – an old meander of the Willamette River - is the centerpiece of the property. A short boardwalk leads to grassy trails and road tracks. There’s an observation blind over Lake Creek, and some trails can be accessed only in the dry months, when it becomes possible to walk a low causeway over Lake Creek to connect back with the main trail. There’s a large blue heron rookery closer to the Willamette (The trails do not get too close to it), an osprey nest, and evidence of beaver activity although the rodent you’re more likely to see during the day is the exotic nutria.

From the parking area, take the boardwalk through a dense thicket of willows. Make sure you have binoculars with you so you can spot migrants, such as warblers, in the spring and fall. The boardwalk soon becomes a mowed path lined with Armenian blackberry, cottonwood, Oregon ash, and big-leaf maple. Presently, you will come to a picnic table overlooking the Lake Creek oxbow. Continue on the grassy path and pass a spur leading right to the water. This is the beginning of the loop trail, but it is not possible to cross here in times of high water.

Keep walking along the mowed trail as a field appears on your left. Take the diversion to the observation blind on the right. This is a worthwhile spot to sit and wait for wildlife to appear: you have a good chance of seeing ospreys, great blue herons, and western pond turtles. Return to the main trail, and continue on a road bed to a four-way junction. This is the junction of the Blue Heron and Dike Trails. Go left here to follow the Blue Heron Trail along the edge of a field. Soon, you'll veer right, still keeping to edge of an open area, with the flood plain of Snag Boat Bend to your left behind a screen of alders and cottonwoods (Back there, somewhere, is the heron rookery). The trail turns again and crosses the center of the grassy expanse to return to the four-way junction.

Here, go left on the levee in an avenue of maples. At a hiking trail sign just before an osprey nest, head down into a meadow. Keep to the left on the road track, hiking along a line of cottonwoods, until you reach Lake Creek (This is the Turtle Loop). You'll have to turn back here in the spring, but later in the year, you can follow the shore until the track curves back through the middle of a seasonal wetland. You'll join the connector trail that will take you back, so in the summer/fall, go left to enter an alder/willow bottomland. The road track deposits you at braiding Lake Creek, which you should be able to cross at low water. There's a leafy island to cross and then another channel of Lake Creek to hop over before you reach the main trail. Make a left and return to the parking area.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No pets allowed
  • Open sunrise to sunset
  • Trails beyond boardwalk closed from November 1st to March 31st


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger

More Links

Page 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.