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Beach Walking at Kelley Point and more

Kelley Point Park lies at the confluence of the mighty Willamette and Columbia Rivers, and while nobody will confuse it with a hiker’s paradise, it’s a nice place to get away from the rat race  in North Portland. As I was reminded by the helpful Portland Hiker’s Field Guide, it’s a great place to walk on the beach, so I went back out there a couple days ago with some neighbors.

First walking down the Willamette, then up the Columbia, there is probably at least a half mile of beach walking, which is unusual this side of the Oregon coast.


Headed downstream along the Willamette on a perfect morning

Crazy roots just above the sand, like a mangrove

Crazy roots just above the sand, like a mangrove

We occasionally passed fishermen and gawked at powerful tugboats and freighters in the river.

Seagulls on old pilings right off the point proper

Seagulls on old pilings right off the point proper

Looking down the Columbia

Looking down the Columbia–notice the pilings from the previous photo below the ship

One recommendation:  don’t make the  mistake of parking at the first little pullout once you’re on the park road.  Park at the second obvious lot, where a paved path begins.  Create your own loop between paved path, beach, a dirt road near the northern parking lot, and a great meadow.   It makes for a pleasant half hour or forty minutes of walking if you have no particular place to go.


If that isn’t enough of a hike, Kelly Point is about five minutes from the Smith and Bybee Lakes trailhead.  You can walk further there, or get out the kayak.

Kayakers at Smith and Bybee Lakes

Kayakers at Smith and Bybee Lakes

On a sunny weekend, these two spots make a great combination of destinations.   Just remember that no dogs are allowed on the trail at Smith and Bybee Lakes.

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.