The other day, for my sister’s birthday, we decided to check out Miller Woods Conservation Area. None of us had ever been there before, and in fact I didn’t even know it existed until recently when I started looking around for hikes in the area. This is a great location! 130 acres, it contains many hiking trails. The Yamhill County Soil & Water Conservation District, as well as Miller Woods members, are doing tons of work to provide habitat for native plants and wildlife. The property is open to the public ($3 suggested donation per car), and it is also used for education: bird houses are in evidence all over the place, there’s an “education station” that measures meteorological data (weather), and they have a greenhouse and enclosures to protect native plants. Native plants are also sold to the public periodically.
(Photo credit: The photos in this post that are from a nice camera are by my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, the wonderful and talented Paul Kachris-Newman.)
From Newberg, we chose to take the scenic route. The one pictured in the map (above) is 33 minutes if you drive through Carlton, and we chose the even-more-scenic route through Yamhill AND Carlton, which took about 40 minutes. If you’re from McMinnville, apparently this is only about 3 miles (10-15 minutes) outside of town. Coming from Newberg, you could also go through Lafayette and McMinnville, but that’s not as beautiful and takes about the same amount of time. Miller Woods wasn’t difficult to find, following our GPS. The GPS would have taken us slightly beyond the entrance, but there was a sign, so we saw it and knew where to go. I had been warned ahead of time that the sign was fairly small, so I was keeping an eye out for it.
We hit a beautiful day for a hike: mid-60s, slightly overcast, no rain. Much of the trail is actually through a field, so most of the time we were out in the open and not in the woods. There are longer trails that pass through more of the woods, but with kids along, we mostly stuck to the “Education Station Trail” (blue line on the trail map, below), plus some segments of the yellow and red trails.
When we got there, we parked and hit the kiosk, of course! That seems to be a theme of these posts. Anyway, there was a nice kiosk overlooking a pond. It has a big map so you can see the whole property, and it also has laminated maps you can carry around with you and then return. I thought this was a great idea. They don’t have to keep printing more maps and/or have potential litter blowing around the property. We grabbed a map and planned our route.
The only problem we encountered on our hike was that the numbers on the map don’t always (ever?) correspond with the numbers on the signposts along the trail, and sometimes where there is a number on the map, there is no signpost or other indicator on the trail. (In the photo at right, this signpost 14 is at the location where we think signpost 31 should be.)
With all the trails intersecting and diverging, and since we didn’t want to get ourselves TOO far out with kids who weren’t excited about a long hike that day, it was somewhat frustrating that the map didn’t correspond with the markers. Also, although the map gives us a general indication of distance (showing 2200 ft), it doesn’t say how long each trail is. Maybe this information is somewhere online, but I couldn’t find it. Since the area has only been part of the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District since 2004, we’ll forgive them for not having all their ducks in a row yet in terms of technology and user-friendliness! We’re grateful for the work they’re doing to create, conserve, and restore space for native species, and a space for our species to enjoy and cherish.
Overall, we loved this area. Although we don’t know a whole lot about birds, it inspired us to learn more! We saw many different types of birds, including hawks (OK probably turkey vultures, they were too high up to tell for sure), swallows, finches, and robins, as well as others we couldn’t identify. We also saw some bullfrogs. I think these are an invasive species, but they were cool to look at, anyway! We saw many interesting creepy-crawlies and plenty of wildflowers. The wooded part of the trail followed a creek, and the trail crisscrossed it several times, with nice bridges. It would be fun to go there on a warm day in the summer to play in the creek. There are also picnic tables near the pond, so you could bring a picnic—though, make sure to bring some bug repellant if you’re going to sit by the water for a while.
I highly recommend this trail and conservation area for anyone looking for a beautiful, easy hike, and/or ways to get involved with habitat restoration.