The freeway-flanked meadow was, indeed, a verdant pasture for many years. This area was also the site of an aluminum plant which changed the post-depression economic climate of the nearby towns of Troutdale and Gresham. Lewis and Clark explored here while camped at what is now Lewis and Clark State Park. Mt. Hood had erupted just a few years before, sending quantities of ashy sediment down the river and forming a delta at its confluence with the Columbia. Clark noted the sticky, coarse sediment of the river bottom in 1805, naming this the "Quick Sand River" (later shortened to "Sandy"). The silty sand of the delta provides a frequently changing maze of sandbars and small, braided waterways.
Sandy River Delta is still a dog park enjoyed by multitudes of exuberant, leash-free canines. At the same time it is a haven for birds, who relish the return of marshes and natural meadow land; Northwest Birding provides a thorough list of birds sighted in the park. About a third of the park has been set aside for wildlife, and a rustic fence marks the boundary.
To find the park from I-84, take Exit 18 and turn north, following signs to the parking area. There is also a road along the Sandy River from Lewis and Clark State Park. Be aware of the leash-required zones; the Forest Service site has an excellent overview of the park, as well as an aerial photograph of the delta. The Friends of the Sandy River Delta have a very informative site that can answer any questions a visitor may have.
The large parking lot has room for horse trailers as well as hitching posts. Restrooms and picnic tables are provided among the cottonwoods. The picturesque old corral is tucked between the parking lot and I-84. Several trails lead toward the bird blind; the most direct route is the accessible Confluence Trail (please be courteous and keep dogs on leashes on this trail). The blind is artistic and modern-looking and definitely worth a visit, but visibility is limited by the slats, making photography and the use of binoculars cumbersome. It's worth noting that we saw countless birds on our last visit, but none from the blind.
To find a variety of songbirds, follow the Boundary and Meadow Trails through the fields. The Ranch Dike Trail leads through a cottonwood grove, and the Old Channel Trail wanders near the old/new upper river channel. Watch for access trails to the river, where ecstatic dogs pursue sticks flung into the water. The old 1000 Acres Road is still a lovely walk, but don't believe outdated maps; with the dam gone, there is no longer foot access to Sundial Island.
While this park offers a quick hike on your way out of Portland, we have spent many hours exploring the trails and bird watching. It's especially pretty in the fall, when the light is soft on the falling leaves. So take Exit 18. Spend a little time where Lewis and Clark explored a new delta and where workers smelted aluminum for World War II. Let your kids ride their bikes while your dogs run through the mud. Watch golden-crowned sparrows flit over the marshy grassland where nature is quickly healing herself alongside the freeway.
|The ornamental yet unproductive bird blind.|