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5 kid friendly spots to view wildlife Near Portland, OR

Wildlife is everywhere, you just have to know where to look.

By: Kari Wilde + Save to a List

Wilson River at Keeing Creek

Wilson River at Keening Creek is a gem for many reasons. The river here is fairly shallow making it an ideal spot for younger children. Head down the river a bit further and you'll come across the most inviting rock formations. These rock formations will provide children with endless opportunities for play and provide some awesome amphibian discoveries. While exploring the creek, river,  and rocks we spotted salamanders, newts, and frogs. There were also loads of butterflies and a few deer.

Stegierwald Wildlife National Refuge

If you’re interested in birds, Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go. Steigerwald lake national wildlife refuge is just outside Vancouver, WA and is home to lots of animals and easy trails. The 2.8 mile loop trail is flat and easy with lots of scenic vistas and tons of wildlife. Seasonal trails are open from May 1-October 1 making this refuge even more exciting to explore during the spring and summer. We saw dozens of bird species, rabbits, frogs and a bald eagle.

Clear Lake Trail, Mt. Hood

Clear Lake is in Mt. Hood's National Forest near Maupin OR. We loved that the lake was fairly shallow for at least 10 FT out (that’s as far as we explored) and in some parts, it's very clear. While playing at the river’s edge we witness countless birds and salamanders. While hiking around the trail saw an owl sitting in a tree.  

Fernhill Wetlands

If you’re heading out to Henry Haag Lake, west of Hillsboro, make sure to stop by Fernhill Wetlands, a little known preserve that is just oozing with all kinds of animals. Herons, migratory birds, hawks, newts, salamanders, raccoons and snakes have all been spotted by my kids here. It’s also an excellent flat and well maintained trail, making it easy for little ones to navigate with ease.

 Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Jackson Bottom Wetlands located in Hillsboro, OR has more animals then you’ll know what to do with. First off, it’s an excellent birding location. We’ve spotted Red Tailed Hawks, Herons, Ospreys and Red Wingled Blackbirds. And while the birds are really cool, we come to Jackson Bottom Wetlands for the snakes, deer, coyotes, frogs, newts, and rabbits.

First let’s talk about the snakes. We’ve spotted up to ten garter snakes in just an hour long visit. In spring time the newts come out en masse. We’ve also had several lovely encounters with deer and were able to view them from a safe distance, ensuring we didn’t disturb them. Lastly, we were lucky enough to witness a coyote that jumped out of the brush about 20 feet away from where we were walking on the trail. 

There you have it! 5 kid friendly spots near Portland that are great for viewing wildlife. Grab the kids, pack your car and go now, the animals are waiting. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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