3 ways to enjoy wildlife right here, right now

  • By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014 4:41pm
  • Life

June and July are great months to watch for wildlife.

Most creatures are having young or rearing them. Food is usually plentiful for them and the weather is often pleasant for us.

Now is a good time to get outdoors, stretch your legs and enjoy some of the wonderful things the Northwest has to offer. And you don’t have to go far to do it. Most communities in Snohomish County have special places to enjoy for a few hours or a day. Some are worth coming back regularly for new adventures.

Here are three things you can do in the outdoors during the next few weeks:

Take a river walk

Everett’s Langus Riverfront Park is fairly well known because people drive past it on I-5 as they head to the city from Marysville. But you can’t get to it easily from the freeway, so it’s not as well-used as you’d expect.

The 96-acre park’s best feature is an asphalt path along the river where you can walk, ride bikes, or stroll with a stroller and enjoy the diverse wildlife in the Snohomish River estuary. There’s a three-mile loop along the river with a variety of songbirds, herons, hawks, and eagles, and even the occasional deer or otter.

Osprey are my favorite creature in the estuary this time of year. You frequently see them high overhead searching for fish. If you’re lucky, you’ll see an osprey feeding atop one of the many pilings along the river.

The Everett Rowing Association keeps its boats at the park’s shell house, so you can frequently watch crews practicing along the river.

To get to the park, located at 400 Smith Island Road, use Highway 529 and follow the signs. If you are just walking and not picnicking, park below I-5.

Visit an island

Connected to the river walk is Spencer Island, also in the Snohomish River estuary. The area was diked in the 1930s and privately farmed for many years until it was purchased by the state and by Snohomish County in 1985.

The state allows hunting on the north end in the fall. The county allows hiking along trails atop some of the island’s dikes. Other dikes were breached to create habitat for waterfowl and the occasional coyote or deer.

It’s a haven for herons.

The island has restrooms and a variety of boardwalks and interpretive signs to describe the habitat. Bikes aren’t allowed on the island trails.

If you don’t want to walk the riverfront trail to the island, continue to drive past Langus Park east of the freeway overpass. Smith Island Road is now Fourth Street and you drive through the city’s water treatment facility. The county has a small parking lot there where you can park and take a relatively short walk to Spencer Island.

Another island teeming with wildlife this time of year is the Port of Everett’s manmade Jetty Island. The city operates a ferry to the island through the summer starting on July 5.

But you don’t have to wait for the ferry if you have your own boat. You can launch at the 10th Street Boat ramp and go a short distance to Jetty Landing.

Jetty Island is two miles long and has a variety of nature trails.

Osprey nest on numerous pilings around the island, eagles are frequent visitors, and now is a good time to see a gaggle of Canada geese (with goslings).

Your only competition before Jetty Island days are the kite boarders, who are fun to watch along with the wildlife.

Explore a mudflat

The Port of Everett created a salt marsh in 2001 along Union Slough to make up for some wetlands it displaced along the waterfront. The 2.4 acre marsh has a perimeter trail that provides great views.

Canada geese and their young are common this time of year, as are herons.

The marsh turns into a mudflat at low tide. You can access the parking area to the marsh off Highway 529 between Everett and Marysville.

The area north of the port’s 10th Street boat ramp also turns into a mud flat at low tide.

The area is frequented by osprey, heron, cormorants, geese, ducks, and a variety of shore birds. I often see seals sunning on the log rafts.

If you’re not much of a walker, this area is the spot for you, but parking costs $3 from Friday to Sunday.

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