From majestic elk grazing in meadows near Reedsport to butterflies fluttering through Elkton to blacktail deer roaming the oak savannah hills, opportunities abound for wildlife watchers in Douglas County.
Waterfowl, steelhead and salmon, white-tailed deer and purple martins are just a few of the creatures that call these parts home. While animals of all kinds can be spotted throughout the county, a few choice locations provide ideal viewing.
A quarter-mile, disabled-accessible trail leads to the Deadline Falls Watchable Wildlife Site. Between June and September, visitors may see anadromous fish jumping the falls on a journey from the ocean to their spawning grounds in the North Umpqua and its tributaries.
The trail, maintained by the Roseburg office of the Bureau of Land Management, is at the beginning section of the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail and takes off from Swiftwater Park, on the south side of the river, at Idleyld Park, 23 miles east of Roseburg.
DEAN CREEK ELK VIEWING AREA
The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is located on Highway 38 about four miles east of Reedsport.
Enhanced wetlands and improved pastures attract wild fowl and Roosevelt elk in numbers sure to please bird- and wildlife-watchers.
Visitors can also catch a glimpse of deer that are attracted to the area.
The best times for viewing elk are early morning and just before dusk. The massive Roosevelt elk that inhabit the viewing area come out as if on cue.
Sixty to 100 of the elk, standing as high as 5 feet and weighing as much as 900 pounds, freely roam 440 acres of bottomland consisting of pasture and wetlands. That area is flanked by another 600 acres of woodlands containing hardwood and coniferous forests.
Roosevelt elk, named for U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, are found throughout the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. The massive creatures feed after daybreak and in the evening, enjoying grasses and weeds in early spring and summer. In late summer, fall and winter, the elk prefer huckleberries, wild blackberries, salal and other shrubs.
From mid-May to June, the elk cows seek seclusion in the uplands to calve, but by mid-June both calves and their mothers come back to the area.
The viewing area, jointly managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the federal Bureau of Land Management, extends along a 3-mile stretch of the highway.
A shelter doubles as an interpretive center, giving information on all the species viewable through binoculars.
The tourist-friendly viewing area is always open, unless closed for major repairs, and has restrooms, benches, wheelchair access and a spotting scope. Travel time from Roseburg is about 90 minutes. For information, call the BLM Coos Bay office at 541-756-0100.
ELKTON BUTTERFLY PAVILION
On a trip to or from the coast, travelers can stop and see some of Oregon’s smaller and more colorful species of wildlife at the Elkton Community Education Center, 15850 Highway 38.
Butterfly gardens — featuring Oregon native and butterfly-friendly flowers and plants — serve as a stopping point for monarch and painted lady butterflies.
A pavilion and butterfly life cycle display can help visitors learn how to create habitat and attract butterflies to their own gardens. Native plants are featured along a winding walking path in the Native Oregon Park. Nearly 200 varieties of trees and shrubs representing various climatic zones in Oregon are featured.
The center also has a greenhouse to propagate its own native plants, which it also sells.
The nonprofit center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. RV parking is available. There is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.
For information, call 541-584-2692.
NORTH BANK HABITAT MANAGEMENT AREA
Wild turkeys, a purple martin colony and Colombian white-tailed deer — removed from the endangered species list in July 2003 — are among the wildlife that live in the North Bank habitat area, which spans 6,500 acres off North Bank Road between Glide and Wilbur.
The BLM acquired the former cattle ranch in 1995 after a land swap to secure habitat for the white-tailed deer. Visitors can explore wildlife on foot or by horse, but vehicles are off-limits on the old roads.
ROCK CREEK FISH HATCHERY
Different sizes of fish from tiny fry to adults are raised throughout the year at Rock Creek. The fish hatchery is part of an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife system that supplements fish runs in Oregon rivers and lakes.
The fish include summer and winter steelhead, coho salmon, spring chinook and rainbow trout. A fishway at the hatchery was dedicated in 1988 and allows steelhead, salmon and coho to swim directly from Rock Creek, a tributary of the North Umpqua River, into hatchery holding pools.
Rock Creek Hatchery has a disabled-accessible trail and platform overlooking a natural in-stream holding pool. It also has a picnic area.
The ROCK-ED project is an education-themed building with displays and a classroom.
The hatchery’s half-mile nature trail circles the hatchery.
The fish hatchery is about 23 miles east of Roseburg off Highway 138, just east of Idleyld Park. Turn left onto Rock Creek Road and drive about half a mile to the entrance on McCarn Lane.
Information: Rock Creek Fish Hatchery, 541-496-3484.
WEEPING ROCKS SPAWNING GROUNDS
Spring chinook salmon spawning activity can be seen easily from Highway 138 at Milepost 49 in late September and October. Look for the “cleaned” gravel depressions, called redds, where these large fish have stirred up the gravel and deposited up to several thousand eggs.
WILDLIFE POND, STEWART PARK
Western pond turtles can be seen basking in the sun and ducks nest on the islands of the wildlife pond next to the Fred Meyer store on Garden Valley Boulevard in Roseburg. Resident and migratory birds, including mallards, wood ducks, wigeons, green-winged teal, swallows, finches and Canada geese are among those that use the pond. Boy Scouts built a bird blind that allows visitors to view, draw or photograph wildlife from a covered shelter. Biologists advise visitors not to feed the birds or animals.
WINCHESTER FISH LADDER
Visitors can watch salmon and steelhead in their native environment as the fish swim by the window at Winchester Dam’s viewing station. The North Umpqua River is the only river in Oregon besides the Columbia to provide a fish viewing area.
In an average year, about 60,000 fish of various species and sizes migrate upstream through the fish ladder.
Different types can be seen at the viewing area as the year goes on: Spring chinook and summer steelhead from May through August, coho and fall chinook salmon from September through November and winter steelhead are the primary fish going up the ladder from December through May. Squawfish, suckers and lamprey also may be seen as they pass the window. Educational signs posted near the viewing window help visitors identify fish species.
Winchester Dam, which is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is off Interstate 5 just north of Roseburg at Exit 129.
AROUND THE COUNTY
Wild turkey and deer roam in farm fields near public roadways and osprey nest along the banks of the South and North Umpqua rivers. Bald eagles have made homes along the main Umpqua River, primarily from Tyee downstream, and at Diamond Lake on the eastern edge of the county.