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The Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is virtually invisible in this industrial area and yet it is one of the largest urban wetlands in the United States. You can access this natural area by car or bus. However, if you're feeling very ambitious, add this destination as you walk or bike the 40-mile Loop Trail that runs along the edge of the park. There are bike racks where you can lock up your bike since bicycles and dogs are prohibited on the Interlakes Trail to prevent wildlife from being disturbed.

The Interlakes trailhead is located at the beginning of the entrance road. The main parking lot is about a half-mile from here. There are accessible parking spaces, a drinking fountain and accessible bathrooms at this parking lot. A covered picnic area is located here, also, but metal columns block wheelchair access to the picnic benches. Although, access could be made by entering through the grass, the picnic benches do not have extended ends to allow wheelchair use.

Spring is the best time to go bird-watching or to see the Western painted turtles sunning on the logs. Along the Interlakes Trail, there are three designated wildlife viewpoints, two are coveredall are off-trail at wide, unmarked junctions. Although the trail is paved, roots may cause bumps and ruts in the asphalt surface. The surface of the wildlife viewpoints is metal grating without edge protection. This could be hazardous for some wheelchair users. Some of the transitions from trail to the grating are steep and may have a lip.

This urban wetland can be explored by trail or by boat. There is a canoe launch at the far end of the entrance road, about a half-mile from the main parking lot. You can park along the road. The trail down to the water is steep in spots. The trail ends before reaching the water. This area is usually muddy.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area

Metro/Portland Parks & Recreation


Name: Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area

Parks agency: Metro

Contact: Metro Parks and Nature Dept (503) 797-1545; (503) 262-5538 [emergency number]

Location: 5300 N. Marine Drive, Portland

Hours: legal sunrise to legal sunset

Public transit: TriMet bus 11 stops nearby on both sides of N. Marine Drive - there is a crosswalk, but no traffic light

Length: parking lot to Bybee Lake viewpoint with Smith Lake loop = .9 mile; parking lot to canoe launch = .4 mile, each one way

How difficult do we consider it: easy, a few bumps and some steep sections

Date of last visit: August 11, 2021

Walking or paddling, Smith and Bybee Wetlands is one of the most outstanding places to see native wildlife in a Pacific Northwest city. The Interlakes Trail passes through huge cottonwoods, other wetland trees and grasslands, to several spots with great views of the natural area's two namesake lakes. 

Between mid-April and late-June is the best time to see the more than 35 species of songbirds, Pacific chorus frogs, raptors, Western painted turtles and various mammals.


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