Friday, February 22, 2008

Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area

Tucked in the Fishhawk Creek Valley of the coast range, next to the hamlet of Jewell, a mile-long stretch of Highway 202 passes neatly-trimmed meadows. Even if you are expecting them, it's still a surprise to spot meadow-tan Roosevelt elk standing or lounging in the open there, seemingly without a care in the world.

In some ways, these massive mammals, with their showy antlers, don't have a care. These critters live the good life: the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides feed for them over the winter. The elk are not exactly tame, but certainly are not disturbed by visitors.

On most winter and early spring days, you can take a look right from the highway or pull into one of the designated parking areas for close-up photo without the zoom lens. If the day is pleasant, bring a lunch and your binoculars. Saddle Mountain hovers over the surrounding trees. Birds and other wildlife like the area, too. Want to help feed the elk? Call the Meadows staff at (503) 755-2264 to reserve your spot on the feed wagon, beginning December 1.

For an easy side trip, drive just three miles west of Jewell Meadows to Lee Wooden Park. Turn down from the highway to a short trail to the base of pretty Fishhawk Falls. Also suggested in the ODFW brochure is a loop drive on Beneke Creek Rd to Crawford Ridge Rd. Some elk may be visible on the Beneke Creek Tract that sidles up to Beneke Creek Rd. When the pavement ends, though, be prepared to navigate. This is logging country and several side roads make it difficult to decide which is the road that you want to stay on, as most are unmarked. After attempting the loop from both sides, we were finally able to make a loop, but the promised views were obscured (or we did not go the right way).

To reach Jewell Meadows, turn off Highway 26 just west of the Elderberry Inn at the Jewell Junction. Follow Highway 103 north to Jewell and turn left on Highway 202 toward Astoria. For more information, click here.

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