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Tualatin Refuge Nature Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Flooded plain, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Song sparrow, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
View of the Tualatin River, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Bald eagle, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Poison oak, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
The Nature Trail at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps



This refuge, established in 1992, is composed of various parcels of land along the Tualatin River floodplain between Tigard and Sherwood with the large recently acquired Wapato Lake Unit being developed near Gaston. The Atfalat'i Unit, accessible off Highway 99W, is the only one currently accessible to the public. About 200 species of birds have been recorded here, the best times to visit being fall through spring. There is a Wildlife Center at the trailhead. Brochures and bird check lists are usually available at the large map kiosk for the Atfalat'i Unit. The Nature Trail, characterized by its interpretive signs, is open all year, but the service roads in the unit are closed from October 1st through April 30th. If you come here between those dates, be sure to stay on the trail. See the Tualatin River Wetland Loop Hike for extended hiking opportunities between May 1st and September 30th.

Head down the trail to the right of the information kiosk at the trailhead parking area. The path switchbacks at a planting of Douglas-firs. To the right you will note a wrecker’s yard. Where the trail levels, walk between two small ponds rimmed by young cottonwoods, willows and reed canary grass. Then you're out in restored oak savannah, the oaks being only about four feet high at this point. At points along the trail, there are benches for sitting and observing. Looking right, you will see a planting of Valley ponderosa pines along the wrecker’s fence. The trail approaches the service road at a culvert and then you enter a thicket of maples and blackberries. You should note much passerine activity in here. You can descend the bank of a slough here. Cross a footbridge over a slough. The trail comes out in the open again and the service road is on your left. Beyond that is the large central wetland of the Atfalat'i Unit. With binoculars, look for waterfowl here, including large rafts of shovelers in the winter. To the right is a thicket shaded by ash trees that borders the river. Come to a platform over the river. Then pass under an overhanging oak with a thicket of ash and blackberry on the right, and enter mossy woods of maples dripping licorice fern, Douglas-fir, cedar, grand fir, blackberry, vine maple, inside-out flower, sword fern and hazel.

The Ridge Trail leads left 250 yards up along a ridge under hazel, cedar and Douglas-fir. There is no real viewpoint here, but you may glimpse more waterfowl scudding in the shallows below. Back at the main trail, continue straight past a bench. A spur leads right to the river bank. Now you're walking with the historic channel of Chicken Creek on both the left and the right until you cross a long footbridge over the meander. Emerge from the woods at the service road, which is closed to walking from October 1st to April 30th. The trail to the photographer’s blind leads left (reservations only). Continue straight to the raised Wetland Observation Deck under tall oaks. In winter, vast flocks of pintails, with mallards and teals among them, are foraging in the shallow marsh.

Back at the trailhead parking, you can head south to the bus stop trail, which begins under a large deodar cedar. Before this switchbacks down, there’s a branch to the Centennial Overlook under shady oaks. It’s here that you might get your best sightings of waterbirds.

  • The refuge gates are open from dawn to dusk.
  • The Wildlife Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 - 4:00.
  • There are restrooms, picnic tables, a gift shop, and brochures available.
  • The Nature Trail is open all year; other trails (on service roads) are open May 1st through September 30th.
  • The observation blind is free, but you need to make a reservation to us it: Call 503 625-5944.
  • A birding festival is held at the Atfalat'i Unit on several days around the middle of May

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No pets allowed; no jogging or cycling


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Urban Trails: Portland by Eli Boschetto
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Exploring the Tualatin River Basin by Tualatin Riverkeepers
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald

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.