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Black River Heronry

A 93-acre refuge that hosts the largest heron colony in Washington, with approximately 130 nests in 2005. This is a unique subspecies of great blue heron, which is only found in Puget Sound and in the Fraser River Valley (near Vancouver, B.C.). These herons do not migrate like other herons and are therefore very reliant on this refuge.


Getting There:  

From I-5 South go to exit #157, Martin Luther King Way East/900 East, which takes you east on SR 900. Stay on 900 for 2.9 miles. The second stoplight is 68th Avenue South -- turn right.  You'll go down a windy wooded hill.  The name of the road will change to SW Oakesdale.  At the bottom of the hill, you'll cross railroad tracks.  Drive the equivalent of 2-3 blocks after you cross the tracks. Black River will be on your left. Turn left into the small parking area.

From I-405 take Interurban/West Valley exit and turn east on Grady Way. At the first traffic light, turn left on to SW Oakesdale. At the next light, go straight. Drive the equivalent of 3 long blocks until you see the small parking area on your right. 

Where to go: Walk north along the grassy path following it down the short hill (total distance about 100 yds). At the base of the short hill is a trail. Follow the trail to the right for another 100 yds. You may actually hear them before you see them if you go when there are leaves on the trees.  Wait for a break in the brush alongside the river and you can view the main colony nests in the tall cottonwood trees on the opposite side of the water to the northeast.

To clearly view the herons, you will need binoculars. A spotting scope will make your viewing better still. Do not attempt to get close to the birds or their nests. They are extremely shy and want to be as far away from people and dogs as possible.

Setting:  These wetlands are one of the last protected lowland, deciduous, riparian forests remaining in Puget Sound. The site marks the remains of the vanished Black River, which once flowed out of Lake Washington south into the Duwamish River. With the completion of the ship canal in 1917, the lake level was lowered almost 9 feet, cutting off the river's outlet.

Best Time to See the Birds:  The heron’s nesting activity begins in the late winter and the fledglings stick around until the end of July to early August.

Birds Commonly Seen:  This is a great place to see a large number of Herons roosting in the spring.

Restrictions:  If you use a wheelchair the viewing area to see the herons is accessible if you have someone helping along the unpaved path. The unpaved portion is about three blocks round trip if you park by the Black River Riparian Forest sign and use the paved bicycle path for access. At the bottom of the short hill, turn left onto the grassy path and walk the equivalent of ~2 blocks to the viewing area. The path bends to the left (west) and soon after, you are looking across the P1 Pond into the nesting trees. 

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