The approaching sound of old rusty trumpets grabbed our attention on a recent birdwalk. We looked up in time to see three large swans cruise overhead on their 7-foot wingspans. There aren’t that many places in Oregon where you can be walking distance from a neighborhood and have Trumpeter Swans fly low overhead, but the CZ Trail is one of those places.
Located on the outskirts of the small town of Scappoose, just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, the east end of the CZ Trail is like a condensed version of the much more well-known and well-traveled Sauvie Island — which is fitting, as the island is just a mile away. But unlike Sauvie, managed largely for hunters, CZ is made for walkers — birders and photographers alongside neighbors walking dogs and joggers out for a run.
The trail, named for the Crown Zellerbach company, is a 22-mile-long converted logging road, and its eastern end, in the lowlands, has the best year-round birding. A mosaic of habitats means there’s a great diversity of birds in the classic ¾-mile-long stretch. Sandhill Cranes and American Pipits forage in the agricultural fields, while Virginia Rails and Marsh Wrens call from the cattail marshes. Blackberry brambles hold an array of sparrows, and the open landscapes are a boon for raptors.
Despite the relative lack of coverage, some notable species have been found along the trail, including Swamp Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and, two decades ago, a Brambling.
Agricultural areas, marsh, slough, riparian, and bog.
Almost entirely flat except for a short moderate slope from the parking area. The trail is wide, paved, closed to cars, and wheelchair-accessible.
Winter: Cackling Goose, Tundra Swan, Sandhill Crane, Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin, Fox Sparrow. Spring: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Ring-necked Duck, Rufous Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler. Summer: American Kestrel, Wood Duck, California Quail, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat. Fall: Greater Yellowlegs, Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Black Phoebe.
When to go
Year-round. Winter has the greatest diversity, with large numbers of waterfowl, raptors, and sparrows.
Spacious parking lot at east end, with a portable toilet.
No fees. Located about 30 minutes north of Portland, off Hwy. 30. Parking lots located at Chapman Landing Trailhead and Scappoose Trailhead. While the neighboring lands you’ll look out into are a patchwork of ownership, the trail is owned and maintained by the city of Scappoose.
Bring a scope for viewing distant raptors or waterfowl in winter. Look for meadowlarks and raptors by scanning the large grassy field to the west of the trail toward the airport. Trail is paved, but high water can get the trail wet, so wear boots.