Luckiamute State Natural Area
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The two units of this natural area hold distinct habitats. The north unit has one of the Willamette Valley's largest intact tracts of bottomland cottonwood-maple-ash gallery forest (accessed by a trail leading NE 1 mi from the parking area), with remarkable wildflowers in spring. The forest hosts nesting Wood Duck, Ruffed Grouse, Western Screech-Owl, and five woodpecker species. Red-eyed Vireo is heard almost annually, and Band-tailed Pigeon visits in summer to feast on elderberries. Paddlers can overnight at a boat-in campground just above the Willamette's confluence with the Santiam and Luckiamute rivers, where Northern Rough-winged Swallow nests. In the south unit, oaks grow on high ground; check for White-breasted Nuthatch and Western Bluebird. Ponds in former gravel quarries are home to a significant population of Western Pond Turtle; please heed the signs to avoid disturbing the turtles. Ash swales in both units host nesting Swainson?s Thrush and Black-headed Grosbeak. Look for nesting Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and wintering Western Meadowlark in the native meadow restorations. Brushy areas make this one of the valley?s best wintering sparrow patches, with chance of White-throated, Lincoln?s and Swamp Sparrow along with more common species. In winter, both units can flood which limits access, unless you bring a canoe; on weekends there can be many duck hunters.
From Independence, go S on Corvallis Rd 6 mi to a series of corners where the road turns E, S, then E, passing a large dairy. At the next turn, where Corvallis Rd turns S again, continue straight E on Prather Rd for 0.8 mi, and turn S on Buena Vista Rd just W of the small town of Buena Vista. Entrance for North Unit is 3 mi S of Buena Vista, via a wooden timber bridge on L just S of concrete bridge over the Luckiamute River (GPS 44 43.784 N, 123 09.747 W); follow this for 0.5 mi along S bank of Luckiamute River to reach signed parking area (note that property to S of access road is private). Entrance for South Unit is 1.2 mi farther S on Buena Vista Rd, with signed parking area on L (GPS 44 42.776 N, 123 09.782 W); note that plans call for this parking area to be moved 0.5 mi to N.