Dalton Lake Nature Preserve an unexpected gem near St. Helens
If the stress of this year is getting to you, consider taking a walk through a pristine area of Columbia County, located just a short drive from St. Helens and Scappoose.
Lynne Pettit, who chairs the Dalton Lake Nature Preserve Advisory Committee, keeps a constant eye on improvements at the nature preserve.
"It's a gem in between St. Helens and Columbia City," Pettit said. "It's bounded on the east by the Columbia River and on the west by Rutherford Parkway, not far from Highway 30. This is an Oregon Department of Transportation mitigation area for the widening of Highway 30, and ODOT entered into a cooperative management agreement with the city of St. Helens in 2009."
Pettit got behind an effort to designate the area as a preserve, and her advisory committee brought the idea to the St. Helens City Council, which approved the preserve in October 2019.
"A year later, donations were in place and the committee could move forward with the first phase of the proposal," Pettit said.
Committee members have been of "tremendous help," she said, noting members include Chip Bubl, Debra Brimacombe, Patrick Birkle, Lona Pierce and Paul Barlow.
Speaking of Barlow, who owns Barlow Bikes in St. Helens, Pettit said, "He is on Cycle Columbia County and he is also part of our parks and trails commission. So he was critical in giving us his opinion on what trails might be good for bicyclists."
In forming the preserve, Pettit stressed, "We wanted to preserve the unique geological and botanical attributes."
Another goal was to create a preserve to enhance the livability of the community and provide recreation and educational opportunities for current and future citizens.
Among the attributes in the nature preserve is the documentation of approximately 130 bird species in the area. If you're lucky, you might even see some beavers at a beaver dam.
"A couple of weeks ago, we were walking down there and there was a buck and a doe walking through the area," she said.
"With the efforts of the St. Helens public works department, they (the nature preserve) have a newly installed kiosk, bench and bike rack at the north entrance," Pettit said, noting she hopes to add a bird species list to the two-sided kiosk as well as a listing of plants in the area.
Clatskanie artist Jeremy Furnish created the bike rack that you'll find at the preserve.
"It's a great project," Furnish said. "I was contacted by Cycle Columbia County — they explained where this lake was. That was really intriguing, that there was this big, beautiful nature preserve right there. I had lived in St. Helens for 10 years and I didn't know it was there."
Furnish described the preserve as "a treasure."
He added, "The river is right on the other side. Its proximity to nature is great. You can get lost in nature."
St. Helens City Councilor Doug Morten is a big supporter of the nature preserve. He talked about the preserve's amenities and its importance to the community.
"It's an unbelievable area for migrating fowl," Morten said. "It's a remarkable place just to go and get lost in nature."
Morten continued, "What I notice when I'm down there is just the wonderful smell of the trees, the sounds, the sights. It gets to your senses."
More information and photos can be found on the Friends of Dalton Lake Nature Preserve Facebook page.
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