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Hotspots Near You

198. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon

This beautifully landscaped botanical garden is where to find an abundance of Wood Ducks in winter.

Established in 1950, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden contains about 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, and other plants presented in attractive displays. Though not the primary intent of its developers, it has become a first-rate birding venue. What I particularly like is the layout of the ponds, waterfalls, bridges, streams, and lake. They make the garden a birder’s and photographer’s dream because you can get close to birds without disturbing them.

I am fond of photographing Wood Ducks and have found them in great abundance here. I never tire of watching them take off, land, and fly by. From a main bridge, I’ve also had up-close encounters with Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead — birds that generally do not come near the shore. And at a smaller pond, I’ve had wonderful views of male Hooded Mergansers.

On a visit last February, huge flocks of Canada Geese flew by and landed, and I came across a male Eurasian Wigeon just a few feet from shore. Whether you’re observing or taking pictures, the garden is the place to be. — Michel Hersen

Michel Hersen is a retired psychologist and dean at Pacific University and a landscape, garden, and wildlife photographer. His photo of a preening female Mallard was a Photo of the Week in December 2013.

198. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon

Directions

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a 9.49-acre botanical garden in Portland. From downtown, cross the Morrison Bridge, stay in the right lane, and take Hwy. 99E south. Go 1.7 miles, take a slight right to exit onto SE Holgate Blvd., and drive 0.85 miles to SE 28th Ave. Turn right and travel 0.75 miles to the parking lot on the right.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
45°28’47.52″N 122°38’8.19″W

Habitat

Natural spring-fed lake, ponds, meadows, woods, marshes, waterfalls, and streams.

Terrain

Hilly to flat with steps and paved and unpaved paths. Wheelchair-accessible throughout.

Birds

More than 100 species. American Wigeon, Wood Duck, Canvasback, Mallard, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, Cackling, Canada, and Greater White-fronted Geese, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue and Green Herons, Double-crested Cormorant, Glaucous-winged and Western Gulls, Red-tailed Hawk, Western Scrub-Jay, Steller’s Jay, Vaux’s Swift, Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend’s Warbler, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco. Uncommon: Eurasian Wigeon, Golden-crowned Sparrow.

When to go

Year-round; best from December through March. Rhododendrons and azaleas in bloom spring and summer.

Amenities

Garden tours, restrooms. Audubon Society of Portland hosts Great Big Sit fundraiser in spring.

Access

City park. Open 6-6 October through March, 6-10 April through September. Admission $4 from March through Labor Day, free from Labor Day through the end of February. TriMet bus 19-Woodstock stops one block from garden (trimet.org).

Tips

Bring a camera. A super long lens may not be necessary.

For more info

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, (503) 771-8386.
American Rhododendron Society Portland Chapter
Audubon Society of Portland

Sites nearby

Mount Tabor Park
Hotspot Near You No. 67. About five miles northeast of garden. Warblers and other migrants in spring; owls and hummingbirds year-round.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Hotspot Near You No. 106. About 45 minutes north of garden in Ridgefield, Washington. Great for raptors, waterfowl, owls, and blackbirds.

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