The Willamette Valley is a wonderful place to explore with a pair of binoculars—or just a keen pair of eyes. The mid-valley’s mild climate makes it the winter home for certain bird species, and the rivers, lakes and forests are teeming with life as well. The Willamette Valley Birding Trail is your best resource for birding in the area. Download the Santiam Loop section for a guide to spotting burrowing owl, Oregon Vesper Sparrow, and other species native to the mid-valley area. If you look carefully while walking in grassy meadows in Linn and Benton counties, you might spot a Fender’s Blue Butterfly (Brochure PDF)–a rare butterfly native only to the Willamette Valley.
Here are a few favorite spots for nature viewing and photography:
- Talking Water Gardens on the northeast side of Albany is an engineered wetlands that is home to turtles, frogs, mink, beaver, and dozens of species of birds. Trails and viewing platforms are plentiful.
- Finley Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Albany, has locations on both sides of the Willamette River, in Linn and Benton counties. It is home to one of the area’s largest herds of Roosevelt elk.
- E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, west of Albany, is home to everything from beaver to bobcats, and hosts several threatened species, such as the Western pond turtle, sharp-tailed snake, and red-legged frog. The wildlife area also encompasses the remains of a former U.S. military base, and abandoned roads and old buildings are waiting to be explored at E.E. Wilson.