With Mt. Adams as a backdrop, Trout Lake Marsh is a beautiful birding destination near the west edge of the East Cascades ecoregion, not far from the Cascade crest. This landscape features a complex ecosystem where forested uplands meet freshwater wetlands, creating an ecologically rich habitat at 1,900 feet. Trout Lake Creek, the primary watershed situated northeast of Indian Heaven Wilderness, meanders through this valley and is a key contributor to the wet conditions found here. Willows, alders, and cottonwoods dominate the vegetative communities in and around the marsh. Firs, pines, hemlock, cedar, and larch comprise the surrounding forest, with a deciduous understory including ocean spray and vine maple.
A variety of waterfowl have occurred here, including residents such as Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are year-round raptors. Belted Kingfishers enjoy a healthy trout population in making this their home. Pileated Woodpeckers are commonly encountered, while the Red-breasted Sapsucker is somewhat elusive. Resident songbirds include Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Song Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches may also be seen throughout the year. Many neotropical migrants breed here, with vireo, thrush, flycatcher, and warbler families well represented. Spring to late summer is a good time to be alert for American Bitterns, Band-tailed Pigeons, Red-eyed Vireos, Veeries, and Gray Catbirds. The best month to attempt to see Sandhill Cranes is April. In the colder months, possible specialties include Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, White-headed Woodpeckers, Northern Shrikes, Gray Jays, and Pine Grosbeaks. (For the Trout Lake Marsh bird list, a comprehensive species checklist compiled by local experts, see References below.)
Directions and Suggestions
Spring is an astounding time to visit. However, all seasons deserve consideration. (Expect snow cover in winter.)
From White Salmon, take Route 141 north to Trout Lake. Park at Mt. Adams Ranger Station. Walk west to Lake Road, and follow this gravel road to the trailhead. The trail is about .75 mile one way, with benches provided. This property is protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources as the Trout Lake Natural Area Preserve.