Friday, December 05, 2008

Strangely Absent from the Top Five Tourist Stops in Astoria

I imagine participants in any hobby or pastime have their communal quirks. For birders, one of those has to be our affinity for “waste water treatment facilities” (otherwise known as sewage ponds). Water is water to the birds, so like birds, birders in winter flock to these man-made “ponds.” The Astoria “Ponds” area is just the kind of place only birds, and birders, could love.

Viewing is a challenge because a chain-link fence completely surrounds the ponds. It's possible to walk the fence line, but prepare to sacrifice skin and fabric to the blackberry thorns. Nevertheless, these ponds rate high with us for a tufted duck we saw there several years ago.

For great views of the Columbia River and opposite Washington shore, try the 1/4 mile trail over a wooden bridge at a small pullout before you reach the gate for the ponds. This dirt path cuts through scotch broom and brushy thickets, with some water views, before you pop out onto railroad tracks rusty with disuse. Additional (possibly more fastidious?) water birds float the river. Bald eagles glide by. We saw other people walking and jogging(!) on the railroad bed, so railroad traffic, if it occurs at all, must be minimal.

At the eastern edge of Astoria, from Hwy 30 (Marine Drive), turn north on 45th St., then right on Cedar, left on 51st St, right on Birch, left on 53rd, right on Alder and left on 54th, half a block to the pullout on the left.

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