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Accessible urban trail offers wild views

By Kelly Moyer
The Reflector

The La Center Bottoms Trail is easy to access and simple to traverse, but that doesn’t make the views and wildlife sightings any less spectacular

Accessible urban trail offers wild views

Photo by Kelly Moyer

One of the best things about living in Clark County is that you don’t have to travel very far to enjoy nature.

Take the La Center Bottoms Trail for example – easy to access and simple to traverse, this trail cuts through a serene natural area, offers stunning wetlands views and takes a hiker from an urban area to a wildlife wonderland within minutes.

The trail, which begins with a paved trail near the city’s water treatment plant off Aspen Avenue in downtown La Center and then winds through two miles of lush wetlands, is featured in the Audubon Society of Portland’s book, Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine, which looks at how urban living intersects with green spaces throughout the Portland-Vancouver region.

That intersection is definitely apparent on the La Center Bottoms trail. La Center is known for its casinos, which take up a large chunk of the city’s small downtown. But while humans flock to the gambling centers, birds and other wildlife flock to the green spaces and waterways surrounding La Center. The Bottoms Trail helps connect the urban with the natural.

To get to the trail, take Interstate 5 to the La Center exit, then head east toward the city center. A bridge – crossing over the La Center Bottoms and the Lewis River – leads visitors into the heart of the town. Take your first right after the bridge on Aspen Avenue and then make another right to head into the parking lot near the city’s water treatment plant. Follow the paved trail to the unpaved, two-mile La Center Bottoms Trail.

About one-fourth of the way into your walk – past the city’s Sternwheeler Park and over the little bridge that crosses Brezee Creek – an intersection offers hikers two choices: To the left, a hill leads visitors to a bluff, but is actually a dead-end. To the right, the trail winds its way past a duck blind, over a lovely footbridge and toward the East Fork of the Lewis River. The trail is a “hike out and back” type rather than a circular loop, so be prepared to turn around and retrace your steps at the end of the trail.

Make sure to wear sturdy boots made for mud. In the winter, this trail can be a bit slippy due to the puddle and muddy ground. If you can put up with the mud, the trail offers some pretty spectacular views of the area’s “bottoms,” which turn into a shallow lake during the winter months and attract flocks of migratory Canada geese and tundra swans. The wetlands offers year-round sightings of wood ducks, mallards, and great blue herons.

The trail winds through a 314-acre stewardship site that includes wetlands, floodplains, shorelines and forested uplands. The La Center Bottoms Natural Area attracts so many types of wildlife, including coyotes, beavers, river otters, salamanders and garter snakes, as well as migratory waterfowl, that it is listed as one of Clark County’s three state-designated “Washington Wildlife Watching” sites.

The trail is listed as an “easy” hike and is open to hikers and wildlife lovers from 7 a.m. until dusk, 365 days a year. Dogs are permitted, but must be on a leash at all times.

For more information or to view a map of the La Center Bottoms Trail, visit  http://www.clark.wa.gov/publicworks/parks/documents/lacenterbottoms-trail.pdf.

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