Hiking with Kids: Oak Island Nature Trail (Portland/Sauvie Island)

Portland is very close to many great things. Hiking is fairly abundant close in and we discovered a great trail just outside of Portland on Sauvie Island. What is fun for kids to imagine about the Oak Island Nature Trail is that they are on an island in a lake, that is on an island in a river! That kind of blew my son’s mind!

Here are the stats for you:

  • It is is a flat hike and logs in at 2.8 miles total.
  • The trail is open from 16 April – 30 September.
  • It is a wildlife reserve, so if you want to see the most wildlife the best times to come are mid April and the end of September because you will see migrant bird populations passing through, like Sandhill Cranes.
  • It is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Portland (get the driving instructions here).
  • There is a $10 day use fee. You can get your permit at the grocery store just after to cross the bridge from Hwy 30 onto Sauvie Island (the red building on the left).

This hike is a loop takes you through fields, ash groves and along side blackberry bushes which are heavy with fruit come August (which makes for a really lovely snack while hiking). In the spring you will see beautiful wild flowers in bloom too!

It isn’t a very exciting hike but being so flat and open kids can run ahead and you can see them a ways out. This is also a great starter hike for the littlest kids. All-terrain strollers will not have too much trouble on the flat walking path and since you are close in to town, you won’t be driving for hours to have devastation hit when the little ones are too tired to carry on. You have an easy exit strategy and this can be a great test run for other hikes!


img_1769-001One activity that will help older kids have more fun along this hike is participating in (with their grown-ups help) the Biomimicry Trail! Biomimicry is basically an approach to design and innovation that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature. This is a project that was created and implemented by the 7th Graders at the Sauvie Island Academy. There are 7 sign posts total and you will need a QR Code reader or a web browser on your phone to fully participate. The sign posts along the walk look like the one in the picture on the right and represent Native Americans, Oak Grove, Oak Gall, Songbirds, Waterbirds, Flooding and Mammals. The kids have been presented with different issues we face and have looked to the animals, trees, water, first people, etc. that live(d) in the area to try and solve them. For instance, heating your house – how can we do a better job of that looking at how birds fluff their feathers or the types of nests they build? It is pretty cool and gets all of our brains thinking a little more! It promotes some creative thinking and also inspires the kids to watch more of the nature around them and really see what the animals are doing.

img_1773-001Speaking of nests, we had a real treat during our hike and it turned out to be one of our favorite things! We spotted a massive bald eagle nest. We could see 2 babies in the nest and parents flying back and forth with food for them. Keep your eyes peeled for bunnies, foxes, and loads of other wildlife also! The wildlife area is teeming with life from dragonflies and snakes up to our biggest birds of prey. It is quite exciting to spot them.

Finally, one of the best parts of being on Sauvie Island is that you have so many other wonderful things surrounding you when you. You can do the walk and starting in the spring the crops start coming in and you can visit the many farms. This is a really popular thing to do for Portlanders throughout the summer. All sorts of fruit and vegetables are on offer at road side stands and in small farm markets. We love their corn mazes in the fall too! It is like a little reward earned for a great walk with the family!


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