Refuge Hiking – Parker Slough to Porter Point
Story and photos by Pat Welle
The Refuge has many great hiking trails, from short walks along Willapa Bay to deep forest hikes through stands of old-growth. There are several trails in the South Bay area, and I recently combined a couple to make a long hike through both forested and open wetland areas.
Starting from the parking area at the east end of 95th Place, I hiked the Parker Slough Trail east, connected with the Porter Point Loop around the new Refuge headquarters, and returned – a total of about 4.5 miles. Note: the east end of Parker Slough Trail is closed during hunting season.
This part of the trail has a moderate climb, then descends to offer open views of Parker Slough where the Refuge’s recent restoration efforts reconnected this salt marsh to natural tidal influences. Bald Eagles can often be seen in the lone trees as you head east to join the Parker Point loop trail; following the dike road, you pass the kayak launch on your left.
Here the Parker Slough Trail connects with the Porter Point Loop Trail, which can be taken in either direction. Continuing straight (east), the trail
Parker Slough and Porter Point Loop Trails in
turns north along the east side of the marsh. Be cautious of tide levels here as the trail will be flooded at high tides. Turning east again, follow the trail signs into a beautiful wooded, single-track trail. Initially this passes a small creek where skunk cabbage is readily visible in spring. then climbs a 21-step stair into a thick forest.
This well-marked trail continues up through a thickly canopied forest, then connects to a working forest of mixed-age stands and becomes a forest road again. Turning south and west again you pass through stands of hemlock and other conifers, with huckleberry and mixed shrubs on the edges. Numerous rough-skinned newts can usually be seen along the trail after a rain event.
Early Skunk cabbage along Parker Slough Trail