Arguably one of the best wildlife areas in Oregon, especially in the autumn, is the 5,010-acre Fern Ridge Wildlife Area. This protected area managed by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is home to more than 250 species of birds who use the space as a nesting and wintering sanctuary. Open seasonally to visitors, it is a mix of wetlands, native prairie, and oak savanna.
Fern Ridge is a birder’s paradise, with flat trails for walking mowed through swaths of prairie grass, and trails clinging to the swamp banks. Head out with a map and checklist, and enjoy a stroll through mixed deciduous forest as you count the amazing diversity of birds.
At certain times, the area is also open for canoeing, fishing, and hunting opportunities in the spring and summer months. Fall is a favorite time for birders, however, when shorebirds, raptors, and wintering waterfowl arrive in multitudes as the foliage takes on brilliant autumnal shades of yellow, orange, and red.
The Fern Ridge Wildlife Area is only 12 miles from downtown Eugene, making it a nice daytrip out for a nature walk. The flat terrain makes it a great place to brings kids out for a hike, but be mindful of poison oak, the growth of which is not regulated. For those looking for an extended adventure, know that certain parts of the area are open for overnight camping.
Maps and bird checklists are available at area headquarters and parking area information kiosks. A $5 parking permit is required and can be obtained online or at the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area's parking lots. For specific information on seasonal access, click the Learn More button above or call the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area’s information center at (541) 935-2591.