Motors Allowed?
Easy / Class A
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

At nearly 2,000 acres, Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands Natural Area is the largest urban protected freshwater wetland in America.  If you are yearning for a glimpse of wildlife, the lakes are well worth the short drive.  Although the lakes get most of the traffic, the less popular and less crowded wetlands area comprises a significant portion of the park; this is where you will find some of the most interesting sights and sounds.  The willow thickets and hedges of beggarstick are home to an incredible variety of fauna: beavers, nutria, Iver otter, song birds, great blue herons, ospreys, and even bald eagles in winter months.  Also look for the western painted turtles, which the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has listed as a sensitive-critical species.  Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Forest Park are all visible on clear days.

The wetlands are part of the Willamette River delta located between the Columbia River and the Colombia Slough. Once connected to the natural ebb and flow of the regional water system, the wetland's current hydrological management plan mitigates flooding in nearby industrial parks and port terminals, and helps isolate the contaminants from the nearby St. Johns landfill, the region's main dumpsite from 1940-1991.

If you are already on Marine Drive and would like another paddling option, a visit to the wetlands pairs nicely with a trip to Kelley Point Park, where you can use the boat ramp into the Columbia Slough.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Largest urban wetland in America. Amazing wildlife.


Few places to pull up for a break or a picnic.


Picnic tables
Bird watching

Site characteristics: Water


Portage required




Took the opportunity on an unseasonably warm spring day to explore the wetlands. The water was quite shallow, only about a foot deep for most of the lake. Fauna highlights were spawning carp and beaver crossing our path.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.