I took a quick look at the Salmonberry Reservoir this morning. The small lake is part of the St. Helens Tree Farm property owned by the City of St. Helens.
The property is gated less than a half-mile before the reservoir, which allows a quiet walk in along an easy gravel road. Varied Thrush were common in the trees, and Pacific Wrens called at me from the foliage.
Soon the lake appears before you, beautiful in the morning sun.
Animal life was abundant. A Townsend’s Chipmunk ran across the road. Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Song Sparrows mobbed trees around the lake. What appeared to be a Sora burst from the lakeside vegetation, and as I walked around I found Northern Red-legged Frogs and Rough-skinned Newts on the water’s edge. Trees fallen across the inlet stream showed signs of American Beaver activity.
A birder with more knowledge than myself would have a great experience here, with many more species of birds both visible and calling.
I didn’t have time for a long visit, but I did poke a little past the main lake. Various logging roads and smaller trails broke off in different directions, providing options for quite a few hiking miles. The forest held several pretty streams.
I’ll be coming back at some point for a longer hike.
Right now you can still observe large clearcuts and active logging in close proximity to the main road. But the City of St. Helens has plans to turn the area into a more intentional recreation area, with the potential for 20+ miles of both motorized and non-motorized trails on the 2400 acre property. It is unknown whether logging will cease or camping will become permitted under the new plan.
St. Helens Tree Farm and the Salmonberry Reservoir at a glance
What: lake, hiking, fishing, birding
Where: From Highway 30 on the north end of St. Helens, head west on Pittsburg Road for 8.2 miles until reaching an unnamed road on the left at 45.894946, -122.936366. Next to the road is a small kiosk at which you fill out a free day use form. Continue down the road and you will quickly reach the gate at which you can park.
Hiking: It is approximately 0.3 miles from the gate to Salmonberry Reservoir. There are several miles of old logging roads as well as unofficial smaller trails on which you can hike.
Notable Wildlife: woodland birds, pond amphibians
Property status: City of St. Helens
Website: St. Helens Recreation Area