Category Archives: Canoeing

Smith and Bybee Lakes: Oasis for Portland Birders

Sculpture at the trailhead

Sculpture at the trailhead

The first you might notice on the Interlakes Trail are the tall cottonwood trees.  Then you will notice the constant chatter of birdsong.  The area at Smith and Bybee Lakes is one of the great natural treasures in the Portland area, made more valuable by its industrial surroundings. Two miles west of I-5, adjacent to a major set of train tracks, Smith and Bybee Lakes is a 2000 acre natural haven for ospreys, herons, otters, and many other creatures.

View towards Bybee Lake

View towards Bybee Lake

According to Portland Parks and Recreation website, this “is the largest protected wetland within an American city.”

The area boasts a small trail system, only one chunk of which penetrates the wetlands area, but there are miles of cycling or running to be had on the perimeter.  The Interlakes Trail splits off of the road-like path of the Forty Mile Loop trail near the entrance to the park.


Dense deciduous woods; lots of black cottonwood

The main path ends after two-thirds of a mile at a covered viewing platform facing the reedy shallows of Bybee Lake.


Standing there, you will see waterbirds scoot about, songbirds dart about, and wind ruffling the lush grasses.  It is a peaceful place if you can ignore the powerlines in the corner of your eye.


Lovely scene; notice the powerlines.

An unmaintained trail continues beyond the viewing platform, well-trod but increasingly muddy, meandering through grasses as trees become sparser and views open up in most directions. The song of red winged blackbirds punctuates the scene.

Out at the end of the muddy world

Out at the end of the muddy world

It is hard to imagine a more pleasant payoff for such an easy hike.  This a top-notch venture for all ages.

Pines, art, trailhead, and a train

Returning to the trailhead with pines, art, and a train in the background

Note that because the area is a wildlife refuge, dogs are not welcome on the Interlakes Trail.  Sorry, Jackie.