"Wildlife Oasis in Coast Range Foothills" Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge by glabah

Nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range, where the Willamette Valley starts to transition into hills and valleys, Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge preserves some very rare ecosystems. Perhaps the most important of those is the native Willamette Valley lupine upland savanna, which is exceptionally rare. It is a known home of the Fender's Blue Butterfly, which due to habitat destruction in the Willamette Valley is so rare that it was thought to be extinct between 1937 and 1989. This type of ecosystem is known to survive in only three places, and by far the largest of those places is here on Baskett Slough Refuge.

Scientific exploration into these butterflies is ongoing, and from time to time you will see teams from as far away as the University of Washington examining the ground near the summit of Baskett Butte.

However, if you wish to see the Fender's Butterflies they only are around during the month of May. See my Fender's Butterfly tip.

Other important habitats include upland oak savanna, and wet marshes for many different migrating birds, including the fairly rare dusky Canada geese.

The refuge includes several observation areas, inlcuding wide spots in the roads, plus a few hiking trails. By far the most well known is the Highway 22 Kiosk, as that observation area is visible from this busy road to the coast.

However, the vast majority of people who stop briefly at this observation deck do not realize that there is quite a bit more here than just this little wide spot in the road. The Baskett Butte Observation Platform trail and the Baskett Butte Loop Trail are open to the public all year and have great views of the coast range all the way to the Cascades and Mount Jefferson. Part of the Inter-tie Trail is now open all year as well.

The Morgan Lake Trail, the Cackler Marsh Trail, and the Moffitti Marsh Trail are only open to the public April 1st to September 30th. Part of the Inter-tie Trail is only open during this season as well.

The areas that are closed to the public during the winter months are to keep the migrating birds relatively free of disturbance. Be thankful for that, as once one Canada Goose gets upset, tens of thousands of them take to the sky all at the same time making a horrific noise and keeping anyone from seeing much of anything.

On an additional note: the trail from the Coville Road Trailhead to Baskett Butte is the 1,000th National Recreational Trail, and dedicated as a memorial to the former manager of Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, and who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

As with most of the wildlife refuges, what you see here will depend a great deal on how well you look, how noisy you are, what time of year it is, and the weather conditions. For example, if the water stays around in some of the marshes, then the water birds will stay around a bit longer. If you make a lot of noise, most of the wildlife will go into hiding. Make no mistake: they will be watching you to see what you are, but they will do so from a spot where you can't see them.

Birds in the forest at the top of Baskett Butte are irregular: sometimes there is a lot there, and sometimes there isn't much of anything.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lots of birds here in the winter months.
  • Cons:only very small areas are open to the public all year (for understandable reasons)
  • In a nutshell:Preserves a very vital part of the Willamette Valley
  • Last visit to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge: Sep 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (3)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:27 AM

    Would be nice to see Fedner's blue Butterfly

  • yumyum's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2009 at 1:52 AM

    I used to love watching birds in Australia. I'm sure this is also a great spot!

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2008 at 4:13 AM

    To see thousands of geese up in the air must be a wonderful sight. Here we have a group? flock? of geese of about 25 birds, they like to stop here on their way further south.


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