Of course, finned and feathered visitors have had no problem accessing this 568-acre parcel of sloughs, mudflats, marsh, and forest. Once diked to provide grazing for cattle, the land has been gradually returned to its original estuarine state. Grey skeletons of salt-killed trees provide roosting for raptors, peaceful backwaters offer sanctuary for waterfowl, and lush coastal undergrowth harbors flocks of songbirds.
Situated where the Siletz River empties into Siletz Bay, this marshy area is often inundated by high tides. At low tide, a network of creeks winds through the boggy terrain and scattered mudflats appear. Though still fairly inhospitable to two-legged, wingless humans, the Refuge has recently opened one small section to those who wish to hike, birdwatch, paddle, or even bank fish for salmon and steelhead.
To find the new trailhead, look for a pullout on the east side of Highway 101 at the south end of a small bridge over Millport Slough. There is parking for several cars, but the lot is small and won't accommodate trailers. An easily-accessible visitor's kiosk provides an overview of the tidelands. There are no restrooms, but a portable toilet is provided. Visitors who wish to explore further should be aware that pets are not allowed in the Refuge.
Ten-acre Alder Island is one area of the Refuge that stays high and (relatively) dry, and a half-mile nature trail winds around its circumference. The first section of the trail follows an old, paved roadbed, so it is easily traveled by foot or wheelchair. It passes through coastal shrubbery, with frequent views over the marsh, and ends at the beginning of a smoothly graveled loop.
A three-mile water trail surrounds this little island, utilizing Millport Slough and the Siletz to make a loop. The trail passes through the heart of the wetland and is a wonderful opportunity to spot ospreys, eagles, and red-tailed hawks along with waterfowl and shorebirds. This area is strongly affected by tides, however, so be sure to check tide tables if you venture onto the water; outgoing tides can leave paddlers stranded in deep mud. While this paddle is rated for all skill levels, river currents and afternoon winds can be surprisingly strong, so be prepared.
|The wanting kayak and canoe launch
Part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Siletz Bay offers enough activities to keep visitors entertained for days. Even if you're just passing through, though, take a little time to relax and explore the bay's newest nature access. Take some photos, spot some wildlife, and maybe even cast a line.
|Riverside beach for bank fishing
|Accessible paved road at the start of the nature path
|View of the refuge from the old roadbed