Falcon fledgings mark reopening of Madrone Wall Park
Clackamas County announced last week that Madrone Wall Park is once again open to the public following the successful fledging of three peregrine falcons.
This marks the third year in a row that the predatory birds have returned to the cliff face located within the park to nest. Following confirmation of a falcon nest, each year the county has closed the park to the public to allow the birds to rear their young in this habitat without interference.
"Peregrine falcons are doing a lot better than they have in the past, and part of that is due to management plans put into place like this," said Tom Riggs, interim parks and forest manager for Clackamas County. "The needs that they have for the rock need to be compatible with our recreational uses, and during the time of year when human activity is most likely to scare them away is when we keep the park closed so they can do their thing."
Fledging is the stage in a bird's life between hatching and becoming fully capable of flight. It's the first time the falcons leave the nest, and they're unlikely to ever return. According to Keith Daellenbach of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee, peregrine falcons were once endangered, but were delisted several years ago. They remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prevents humans from disrupting the nesting of migratory birds like falcons.
Daellenbach said that while the closure of the park means climbers have to stay away from a beloved park feature that includes more than 100 climbing routes on a beautiful rock wall several hundred yards long, the local climbing community understands the need to give the nesting peregrine falcons space.
"This is something climbers are familiar with all over North America, especially here in the West," Daellenbach said. "Temporary closures of many sites take place all over the western U.S., like Smith Rock in central Oregon, Beacon Rock in the Columbia Gorge, Yosemite National Park in California."
According to Daellenbach, three years ago the preservation committee worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Clackamas County parks to initiate a monitoring program to keep an eye on the falcons that were nesting at Madrone Wall. They pulled from sources such as Cornell University Center for Ornithology and others monitoring programs at sites like Beacon Rock to use the best available science in protecting these birds. While monitoring is taking place, only sanctioned monitoring activities take place in the park and all hiking and climbing is prohibited.
Although the falcon chicks won't return to the nest, Daellenbach said, they do remain in the area for some time until they've fully developed their ability to fly.
"This park is an absolutely amazing sort of treasure. It's just beautiful," Daellenbach said. "It's an all-natural cliff face where people can go rock climbing, hiking or just enjoy being outside. It's also easy to social distance while rock climbing if other people are also at the crag."
According to Riggs, the preservation committee and involvement of volunteers like Daellenbach have been instrumental in helping make Madrone Wall Park a beautiful asset to Clackamas County parks.
"It's a really important partnership, and it helps us be able to manage the resource while they sort of manage the user side of things," Riggs said.
Due to COVID-19 related staffing limitations, Madrone Wall Park summer hours have been reduced and will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Madrone Wall — located at 19485 S.E. Highway 224, Damascus — is one of the premier multiseason rock climbing sites in the metropolitan area. A $6 day-use parking fee or annual parking pass is required for use of the parking lot.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.