Living with the spectacular Columbia River in our midst means wonderful birding opportunities at any point along the river. There are many easy access points to the river in The Dalles and for miles in each direction. Beginning at the east end of town and moving westward:
The Dalles Dam/Seufert Park
I84: Exit 87. Turn east on Bret Clodfelter Way just before The Dalles bridge. Around New Year’s Day, this is a great spot to see Bald Eagles congregating on the trees next to The Dalles Dam. Other common birds: Osprey, Various Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants.
Cross The Dalles bridge into Washington. Take the second right. It is a sharp 120-degree turn into Hess Park. Park and walk the short distance to Celilo pond. Bald eagles can often be seen in the tall poplar trees in winter. In spring and summer, spot Western Kingbirds, Northern Orioles, Western Meadowlarks, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue and Green Herons, and various ducks.
I84: Exit 85 Drive north, turn right into the park. It is closed from Nov. 1 to the Memorial Day weekend. The usual waterfowl can be seen here, but a trip eastward from the end of the parking lot will put one through a wonderful riparian area. A rare sighting of a Northern Waterthrush was recently reported to have been seen here.
Festival Park to the Dock
Travel into downtown The Dalles until you reach Union street. Turn north, cross the railroad tracks and park in Lewis & Clark festival park. Walk the short distance to the new boat dock to view waterfowl. (I once saw two river otters here before the dock was put in.) As a bonus, walk a couple of hundred yards to the west to Rock Fort, the very location where Lewis & Clark are believed to have camped.
Drive west from the downtown area to Webber Street. Turn north, cross the tracks; the road becomes River Road. Turn right on Klindt Drive. Continue to a sign that reads, “Riverfront Trail Parking and Access.” Park here. Walk on Riverfront trail westward to the Home At Last Humane Society animal shelter. This is an amazing stretch of the trail with a huge variety of birds as the trail follows Chenoweth Creek for about a quarter of a mile. There is a group of large wooden pylons in the river here; there is almost always a Great Blue Heron sitting on it. I once spotted two mink cross the trail here. Birds: Common Flickers, Spotted Towhees, Herons, Osprey, and a variety of sparrows are common here.
Home At Last
Just west of this animal shelter is a gravel lot where one can park. Head west on the trail from here; again, this follows Chenoweth Creek with its great variety of birds. I recently spotted two red foxes at this point. Don’t miss the huge Osprey nest on a pole to the west at the first turn in the trail.
I84: Exit 82 After exiting; turn south for a few hundred yards. At the “T” turn right (west) and continue for a few miles until you see the sign for the Discovery Center. Follow it and park in the free lot. Follow the trail behind the Discovery center. There is a beautiful pond that often has a few Mallards in it. Continue westward to the end of the trail where you can rest on a bench while observing birds, barges, trains and other activity on or near the Columbia River.
Type “Sorosis Park” into your GPS or smartphone. From the parking lot walk southward around the park until you come to dirt trails that travel up the hill behind the park. As you ascend these trails it is common to see Western Bluebirds, Common Flickers, Lewis’ Woodpeckers, Ringneck Pheasants, Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and American Kestrels. Enjoy the spectacular view from this vantage point.
Mayer State Park
This park is about 7 miles west of The Dalles. I84: Exit 76. After exiting, drive north toward the river, turn left into Mayer State Park. Drive to the paved parking lot to park. Lots of waterfowl north of the parking lot area. Walk westward on the paved road. It will pass a large pond, and then turn north to the Columbia River. At the river the trail turns to the west and loops back around. Stay on the wide trail as several branches are tempting to travel, but there is a massive amount of poison oak in the area. See waterfowl at the river and Lewis’ Woodpeckers, Violet-green Swallows, Vaux swifts, White-crowned sparrows, warblers and Red-winged Blackbirds are common.
Rowena Crest/Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve
I84: Exit 76. Travel southward and turn west onto Hwy. 30, the old Columbia River highway. Drive through the famous Rowena Loops (lots of car commercials filmed here) until you reach the top and turn into the lookout area. Enjoy the spectacular vista and watch various swallows as they swoop to catch insects. Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures love to ride the thermals here. On the west end of the road is a small parking area where you can hike into the Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve. (No dogs allowed here.) Common to see Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, & American Kestrels here. Continue westward on the trail to the first small kolk lake, usually inhabited by Red-winged Blackbirds and Mallard ducks. The trail loops around the pond (lots of poison oak here; good to have a tube of Tecnu with you). Warning: I’ve done this hike about 50 times through the years with students and only saw one gopher snake (Pituophis sp.) However in June of 2014 I nearly stepped on a large rattlesnake (9 buttons on its rattle) on the trail and then sighted another one (also 9 buttons on its rattle) farther down the trail. One just needs to be aware that they are out there!