Monday, July 18, 2016

South Saddle Mountain

Originally by Greg Gillson, updated by Stefan Schlick

General directions: From Banks, 15 miles west on Hwy 6 to mile post 33 at the summit of the Coast Range. From there south 9 miles on gravel roads.

Turn off Hwy 6 on Saddle Mountain Road/Beaver Dam Road. (You now enter Tillamook County). There are mileage markers posted every 0.5 miles. Each intersection is marked with a stake with road names. Some maps call the entrance Beaver Dam, some call it Saddle Mountain. Make an immediate right and then another right at the next T. Follow this well graded road and turn left at the 8.5 mile marker after a right curve. Stay on the main road until you get to an intersection with an island that has some roots in it. If you follow left, you will get to the saddle. You can then walk up the remaining 0.5mi to the tower along the gated access road (west), the overlook towards the Tualitin Valley (east) or walk downhill to explore the clearcuts below (there is excellent birding here!).

Habitats: Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests, turning to a few noble fir at the top of Saddle Mountain (3500 feet elevation).

Season: Late spring and summer. The area needs to be explored in fall for rosy-finches.

Targets: This highest point in Washington County has forest birds similar to other lower forests. Nesting birds include Hermit Warbler, Sooty Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Hammond's Flycatcher, Townsend's Solitaire and Mountain Quail. Other birds possible (including anywhere on the drive in) include Gray Jay, Hairy Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Comments: The walk to the summit is a reliable place for Hammond's Flycatcher; they are common and usually calling into mid July. Mountain Quail has gotten more common in the clearcuts near the top. There is usually a Sooty Grouse territory in the first tall trees on the left hand side on the way up to the tower.

Hazards: Roads can be rough, though usually fine for most low-clearance passenger vehicles. Carry cell phone and maps. Carry water.

This is a popular motorcycle and off-highway vehicle recreation area. Do not come on a holiday. Watch for racing motorcycles. Another nuisance is target shooting. The last half mile of road is usually quiet, as is the walk up the hill.

Facilities: No rest rooms. No food or water. Nearest gasoline 25 miles in Banks, also towards Tillamook about equal distance.

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