Top Places To Birdwatch in Oregon – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

December 31, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Top Places To Birdwatch in Oregon – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

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Bird watching enthusiasts in Oregon may not know this, but this state is recorded as the place with the six highest bird species throughout the 50 states in the US. Or in some cases, it’s even considered the fifth highest state, depending on the particular bird count used.

The best part about living in Oregon or visiting is there are so many different bird habitats and a wide array of various species to view throughout the year. There are a number of different seabird and shorebird watching sites within this state, and there are also desert regions and scrubby steps throughout the east coast of the Beaver State.

As you are about to discover, there are a wide range of excellent free and paid bird watching locations hidden throughout the state of Oregon. Since I’m always personally interested in saving money, I do my best to share the bulk of my recommendations as free locations to visit to enjoy birdwatching in this wonderful state. And I specifically share these free destinations because it’s a great way to spend the day outdoors enjoying natural beauty and habitats without breaking the bank for an expensive trip.

Are you thinking about visiting other birding hotspots in the area surrounding the Beaver State? Consider checking out our top resources for bird-watching information in the surrounding states including California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington.

Bird Watching Destinations in Oregon: Free Destinations

Right now, I’m definitely inclined to tell you about my favorite free Oregon-based bird watching destinations. These local birding hotspots are perfect no matter where you happen to live in the Beaver State. It’s worth it to take the trip to visit some of these amazing birding locations no matter what time of the year it happens to me. Just remember that each one of these destinations is free, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth no matter which location you choose to visit in the near future.

Do you appreciate various birding habitats? Continue reading to learn more about the top free bird watching destinations in the great state of Oregon.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

The great thing about this birding hot spot is it’s one of the best and most popular destinations throughout the entirety of the Northwest. Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl migrate to the region each year because they are totally attracted to the expansive wetlands. Besides this beautiful birding Paradise, there are also various Lake and marsh habitats spread throughout Oregon that are perfect for wading birds, shorebirds, and more.

Location:

36391 Sodhouse Ln.
Princeton, OR 97721

Phone: 514-493-2612
GPS: 43.2657° N, 118.8440° W

Hours Of Operation:

One of my favorite things about Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is that the trails remain open for day use every day of the week and even on holidays. They are open from sunrise to sunset, so visitors can stop by at any time during daylight hours for birdwatching, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, and more.

Visitor Center and Nature Store Hours

  • Open Monday through Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Open most weekends when volunteer staff is available

George Benson Memorial Museum

  • Open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset
  • Mountain Bluebird
  • Black Necked Stilt
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Bullock’s Oriole
  • Sagebrush Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • Greater Sage-Grouse
  • American Avocet
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Sage Thrasher

Hiking Trails:

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is the home to 2 exciting hiking trails and biking trails that are perfect for beginners and intermediates. experts might not find these trails too difficult, although one of them is extremely long and they would become a multi-day journey for many people.

With that said, please take a look at my favorite two hiking trails in Malheur NWR and consider checking out these trails in the near future if hiking and birdwatching are your thing.

  • Diamond Craters – this hiking trail is truly amazing because it presents so many unique opportunities to enter the trail and exit at various points along the way. The most important thing to know about this trail is that it’s moderately difficult, so there is certainly rough and rocky terrain along the way and its navigation isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The next important thing to know about this trail is that it’s 29.6 miles long. It will likely take the average person more than 15 hours to complete the trail from start to finish. But as I’ve mentioned, you can enter certain points of the trail and hike for a little while as you enjoy birdwatching and then exit the trail. No one will ever force you to walk the trail in its entirety.
  • Frenchglen Warm Spring Trail – this trail is practically polar opposite of the previous one mentioned for a number of important reasons. For starters, this is an easy trail that’s well-maintained and very easy to navigate. You should have no trouble following the path from start to finish. The other great thing about this trail is that it’s only 3 miles long, so if you decide to walk the entirety of the trail, you should have no trouble finishing in one hour and 15 minutes. If you maintain an average walking pace.

Fern Ridge Wildlife Management Area – Free Bird Watching, Parking Pass Required

The beauty about Fern Ridge WMA is that it’s located just to the west of Eugene Oregon and is focused around a reservoir. It also includes other types of land including grassland, woodland, and marshes. This birding hot spot is one of the best places to go to visit all kinds and types of birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and a wide and lengthy list of various bird species. It’s truly a great place to visit with family members and friends, so remember to check out Perkins Peninsula Park the next time you pay a visit.

Location:

4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. SE
Salem, OR 97302

Phone: 503-947-6000
Toll-Free: 800-720-6339

GPS: 44.0619° N, 123.3544° W

Hours Of Operation:

The interesting thing about Fern Creek Wildlife Area is that it’s open for a very large portion of the day. The visiting hours are for daily viewing from 4 AM to 10 PM each day. At certain points during the year, you will experience seasonal access restrictions. To find out more about these restrictions, visit the Oregon Game Bird Regulations page for more info.

  • Western Grebe
  • American Bittern
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Black Tern
  • Virginia Rail
  • Pacific-Slope Flycatcher
  • Wood Duck
  • Black-Headed Grosbeak
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Clark’s Grebe

Parking Fees:

Visitors have the opportunity to purchase a day pass online or they can purchase an annual permit if they intend to visit this park and others throughout the year. A daily permit costs $10. An annual permit costs $30. Other places to buy passes include a licensed sales agent found here or an ODFW office that sells licenses.

Hiking Trails:

Although there are plenty of excellent opportunities to go hiking whenever you visit Fern Ridge wildlife area, I can only tell you about one trail in particular based on the name, length, and estimated time that it will take you to complete the trail. Unfortunately, many of the trails in the region do not have a specific name or guideposts, but the paths are clearly visible and you should have no difficulty walking along them as you experience wildlife viewing and birdwatching at its finest.

The name of the hiking trail and other important information include:

  • Long Tom River Trail – the most important thing to know about this trail is that it’s an easy trail, so the path is clear, the signposts are useful and informative, and there aren’t going to be a lot of obstacles like fallen trees and foliage in your way. I also particularly like this trail because it’s easy to walk the entirety since it’s only 1.3 miles long from start to finish. The average person shouldn’t struggle with this trail at all. As a matter of fact, they should be able to complete the whole thing in 35 minutes if they walk at a moderate pace.

Summer Lake Wildlife Area – No Entrance Fee, Paid Parking

Summer Lake Wildlife Area can be found along Highway 31 and it’s located in South-Central Oregon. This is a great place to go for birdwatchers of all kinds because the list of bird species located here is quite large. In fact, it’s one of the best areas because it has a wide range of different habitats including sage scrub, wetlands, and more. And even better, you don’t even have to get out of your car because there is an 8-mile auto tour route for travelers to get their fix of their favorite avian creatures right from the comfort of their motor vehicle.

Location:

53447 Highway 31
Summer Lake, OR 97640

Phone: 541-943-3152
GPS: 42.9548° N, 120.7867° W

Hours Of Operation:

The best thing about Summer Lake Wildlife Area is that it remains open 24 hours a day and it’s open seven days a week, even on holidays. There are restrooms, informational pamphlets, bird checklists, and more located in the office of the headquarters lobby.

For those visiting to see the migrating waterfowl, the best time to stop by is in March and April. And if you intend to view migrating shorebirds, the best time to visit is during April and May. To see breeding shorebirds and waterfowl, you should visit between May and July.

  • Prairie Falcon
  • Golden Eagle
  • Sage Thrasher
  • American White Pelican
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Snowy Plover
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • American Bittern
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Yellow Rail

Parking Fees:

Just like the previous entrance mentioned above, visitors can purchase a parking day pass or if they prefer or they can buy an annual permit. The daily one-day visitor pass only costs $10 per motor vehicle. On the other hand, the annual pass gets you a lot more bang for your buck because the entire thing only costs $30 for the year. If you intend to revisit this location at any time in the future, it’s definitely best to buy an annual pass from a licensed sales agent or an ODFW office currently selling licenses.

Hiking Trails:

One of the more exciting things about spending time in the Summer Lake Wildlife Area is that there are a couple of really great hiking trails varying from easy to hard difficulty. And as mentioned earlier, they also have an auto tour trail that drivers can travel upon, which is certainly a great option since the total trail is 8 miles long and it gives drivers plenty of opportunities to see so many beautiful and amazing birds in their natural habitat.

To learn more about the hiking trails including names and other pertinent information, please keep reading to discover the truth that includes:

  • Diablo Peak Scramble – they definitely named this hiking trail Diablo Peak for a reason because it’s downright scary and it’s absolutely difficult for a number of reasons including the rough terrain. There certainly are going to be obstacles and difficult paths to travel along while walking along Diablo Peak Scramble. Even more important to know is that this hard trail is also very long because the total length is 10 miles from one end of the trail to the other. If you decide to attempt the entire trail, it should take the average person walking at a moderate pace about five hours and 20 minutes to finish the entire hiking and bird watching experience.
  • Fremont NRT Winter Rim Trail – this fun and easy trail is definitely a break from the previously mentioned option because it’s not that difficult and it’s definitely not nearly as long as the 10-mile Diablo Peak. In fact, this trail is simple to navigate and it’s well maintained, so you’re never going to run into unwanted obstacles. It’s also 2.4 miles long, which isn’t the shortest trail by any means, but it’s definitely manageable and it shouldn’t take you that long to complete the trail from start to finish. In fact, most people that hike along this trail are able to complete it by walking at a moderate pace for about an hour.

Fort Stevens State Park – Free Admission to the Park, Paid Parking

Located right near the Pacific Ocean where the Columbia River enters into it, Fort Stevens is located on a peninsula that can be found nestled in the northwest corner of the state of Oregon. The reason why so many people flock to this area is it’s one of the top spots in the entire state if you’re looking to see your favorite shorebirds and seabirds during the fall through spring. You can enjoy some of the wonderful hiking trails in the area, or if you prefer, there is a large observation tower that provides visitors with the ability to view a plethora of birds along the Pacific.

Location:

1675 Peter Iredale Road
Hammond, OR 97121

Phone: 503 861-3170
GPS: 46.1994° N, 123.9791° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open for day use and camping all year-round. The hours of operation are as follows:

  • Open seven days a week from 6 AM to 10 PM each day
  • Holiday hours may vary. Please call in advance to confirm.
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Pelagic Cormorant
  • Red-Throated Loon
  • Pacific Golden-Plover
  • Wandering Tattler
  • Rock Sandpiper
  • Bristle-Thighed Curlew
  • Marbled Murrelet
  • Common Murre
  • Red-Necked Grebe
  • Black Oystercatcher
  • Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper

Hiking Trails:

Fort Stevens State Park is one of the best overall places to visit in Oregon if you’re looking to enjoy a wide range of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. As a matter of fact, I personally discovered 11 hiking trails in the area that vary in distance, estimated time to complete, and degree of difficulty. I would like to share this information with you today, because it will help you determine the best trails to choose the next time you plan to go hiking and bird watching in Oregon in the future.

The names of these 11 hiking trails and other important info include:

  1. Columbia Beach via Isaac Stevens, Battery Russel, and Kestrel Dune Trail – moderate difficulty, 5.6 miles, two hours and 45 minutes to complete
  2. Kestrel Dune and Columbia Beach Loop – moderate difficulty, 4.9 miles, two hours and 30 minutes to complete
  3. Swash Lake Viewpoint Via Isaac Steven’s Trail – easy difficulty, 1.3 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  4. Battery Russel, Sunset and Kestrel Trail Loop – moderate difficulty, 4 miles, two hours to complete
  5. Coffenbury Lake Trail – easy difficulty, 2.5 miles, one hour and 15 minutes to complete
  6. Peter Iredale Shipwreck – easy difficulty, 0.2 miles, five minutes to complete
  7. Fort Stevens, Jetty Loop, and Fort Stevens Ridge Trail – moderate difficulty, 9 miles, 4 ½ hours to complete
  8. South Jetty Observation Tower – easy difficulty, 0.2 miles, five minutes to complete
  9. Fort Stevens Jetty Trail Loop – easy difficulty, 1.2 miles, 30 minutes to complete
  10. Battery Russel Loop – moderate difficulty, 2.8 miles, one hour and 20 minutes to complete
  11. DeLaura Dune Trail – easy difficulty, 2.7 miles, one hour and 20 minutes to complete

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

This beautiful wildlife refuge is a great choice to visit because it consists of 3525 acres of beautiful refuge land just south of Corvallis. It was originally established to help provide the dusky Canada goose subspecies additional aid. They largely winter in the Willamette Valley and Oregon and breed in Alaska. Visiting the area is a great idea because there are many different types of birds, but it’s also well known for its many waterfowl in the wet Prairie, oak savanna, and varied woodlands.

Location:

26208 Finley Refuge Road
Monroe, OR 97333

Phone: 541-757-7236
GPS: 44.4070° N, 123.3089° W

Hours Of Operation:

The national wildlife refuge is open every day to the public, seven days per week. The visitor center and nature store maintain the following hours:

Visitor Center:

  • Open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Open Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM

Wild Goose Nature Store:

  • Open Friday through Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Hutton’s Vireo
  • Marsh Wren
  • Greater White-Fronted Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Northern Harrier
  • Band-Tailed Pigeon
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Gray Warbler

Hiking Trails:

Today, I’d like to tell you about 8 different hiking trails that I discovered in William L. Finley national wildlife refuge. Each of these trails varies in length and degree of difficulty, and I will give you a brief rundown of each trail and the most pertinent details below.

The names of these trails and other information include:

  1. Cabell Marsh Trail – easy difficulty, 2.1 miles, one hour to complete
  2. Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trail – easy difficulty, 2.4 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  3. A Host of Honkers: William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge Trail – moderate difficulty, 14.5 miles, seven hours and 15 minutes to complete
  4. Woodpecker Loop Trail – easy difficulty, 1.1 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  5. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge Mega Loop – moderate difficulty, 8.3 miles, four hours and five minutes to complete
  6. Mill Hill Loop Trail – easy difficulty, 3 miles, one and a half hours to complete
  7. Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk – easy difficulty, 0.7 miles, 20 minutes to complete
  8. Cheadle Marsh and Pigeon Butte – moderate difficulty, 3.6 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete

Bird Watching Destinations in Oregon: Paid Destinations

Indian Ford Campground

Located in Sisters, OR, this beautiful campground is a wonderful place to visit within Deschutes National Forest. It’s filled with a wide array of various bird species and it’s even an excellent place to go if you want to see many mountain birds. There are trails for hiking and biking, which make this campground a fun filled and exciting place. It really provides a wonderful chance for families and friends to spend the night or multiple nights in the campground while viewing their favorite bird species in their natural habitat.

Location:

Indian Ford Road
Sisters, OR 97759

Phone: 877-444-6777
GPS: 44.3588° N, 121.6105° W

Hours Of Operation:

At the moment, the campground is closed because of Covid 19. But it will eventually reopen again and it will be open to campers 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

  • Sooty Grouse
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Red-Breasted Sapsucker
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Brown Creeper
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Red Crossbill
  • White-Headed Woodpecker
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker

Entrance Fees:

Campers are required to pay a $12 per night camping fee. They also must pay an $8 fee to register their vehicle with the campground.

Hiking Trails:

According to the website, there are hiking trails and biking trails that lead outside of the campground. They are typically used for people that are just passing through the area, but many people also like to visit these areas to enjoy a day of birdwatching with family members and close friends. Unfortunately, none of these trails have names or other specific information I can share with you today, but please understand that they do exist.

Oregon Birdwatching Clubs

Birding enthusiasts in the Beaver State are absolutely in luck because there are a number of different bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society within their borders. These clubs are amazing because they help like-minded people get more involved with the birding community. They help them take action on environmentalism, education, habitat protection and so much more. They even connect with like-minded people with one another to experience bird watching and regular field trips together as well.

Today, I’d like to tell you about a few bird watching clubs and organizations in Oregon. Get to know these wonderful groups and consider joining. It will help you connect with other birdwatching enthusiasts just like you.

Klamath Basin Audubon Society

The reason I like recommending the Klamath Basin Audubon Society is because they want people to experience the region’s wildlife, so they do a great job of providing education, field trips, events, and more. And they focus their work on birds and other natural resources. Members of this group will get involved with the local conservation efforts and do their part to enhance the overall bird watching experience in the community.

This group regularly meets for certain educational activities and they even take field trips from time to time, but they aren’t taking any at the moment because of the Covid 19 virus.

Contact Info:
KBAS
PO Box 354
Klamath Falls, OR 97601

Monthly Programs and Activities:

  • Monthly Zoom Meeting – because of the coronavirus, the KBAS is hosting their regular monthly meetings via Zoom. They take place on the second Tuesday of each month and last from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. You can register for their monthly meetings by clicking here and following the instructions on the page.
  • Field Trips – the group regularly takes educational field trips to learn about the natural resources and the many birds located in Klamath Basin.
  • Annual Winter Wings Festival – this festival was created in celebration of the birds that spend their winters in the basin. It’s truly a fun filled time for everyone involved.
  • Nest box maintenance – the group maintains many nest boxes for bluebirds and other bird species. These boxes are located in Moore Park and Miller Island and they need regular care, which this group provides.

Membership Fees:

Joining KBAS is easier than ever. You can sign up to become a member of this group by visiting this page online and following the on-screen instructions. Or if you prefer, you can print off and fill out the application found here and mail it to the PO Box mentioned above. Please make your check payable to KBAS and provide the appropriate payment for your membership level.

Membership levels include:

  • Individual Membership – $20
  • Family Membership – $25
  • Student and Senior Citizen Membership – $15

Feel free to join the KBAS at your earliest convenience to connect with other like-minded birdwatchers just like you.

Oregon Birding Association

The Oregon Birding Association is a group that believes birding is for everyone. They work hard to promote this enjoyable holiday throughout the community, and they focus their resources on science, education, conservation, knowledge, and sharing birding experiences with other like-minded folks who enjoy this hobby.

The group takes regular field trips, but they do have specific guidelines in place because of the Covid 19 pandemic. You can find out more on their field trip policies page.

Contact Info:
Oregon Birding Association
PO Box 675
Lincoln City, OR 97367

Past and Future Events:

  • Columbia Gorge – this trip is being held on January 8, 2022. On the trip, guess we’ll explore a number of different habitats in Sherman and Northern Wasco counties. Participants will have the opportunity to see a wide variety of bird species including grebes, ducks, geese, and gulls. The group will also visit Heritage Landing to check out the raptors including eagles, hawks, and falcons. You must be a member to go on this trip. You can register for the trip here.
  • Brownsmead – this upcoming field trip is a little bit further in the future because it isn’t happening until March 5, 2022. At the time of this writing, the OBA hasn’t shared too much information about the upcoming event. To find out more in the future, please check on their field trip report page which can be found here.

Membership Fees:

Becoming a member of the Oregon Birding Association is very simple to do. Please visit this page on their website and follow the on-screen instructions. They make it possible to join online and pay for your membership via PayPal. Or you can fill out a membership application found here and mail it into the following address along with your payment:

OBA Membership
PO Box 675
Lincoln City, OR 97367

Final Thoughts: The Top Oregon Birding Destinations & Clubs

It really brings me a tremendous amount of pleasure to share this information about the top Oregon bird watching destinations with you. I did my best to find free and paid destinations for you to visit throughout the great state of Oregon. And I also shared some of my favorite bird watching clubs and chapters of the national Audubon Society as well.

Can I ask you a question?

Do you know of any other paid or free bird watching destinations in Oregon? How about other bird watching clubs that I didn’t mention? Feel free to send us a message and tell us about the important birdwatching resource that you like us to share on our website. We appreciate the help and look forward to hearing from you soon.

We aim to provide the best resources for birding in the Beaver State. Lend us a hand and help us achieve our valiant goal!

Birding In Oregon - State Bird Western Meadowlark
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