Located on the Willamette River, along an established migratory path for dozens of avian species, with no major roads or railways close by, the area’s birds flourish. If you take a walk along the riverfront trail, or sit for a spell on our rooftop deck, you are destined to spot and hear dozens of bird species.
The nearby Baskett Slough and Ankeny National Wildlife Reserves, and Minto Brown Island Park are home to over 500 different bird species combined with several miles of trails to explore. The Salem Audubon Society has produced an information-filled Salem Area Bird Checklist for easy use while at the Hotel, or on a visit to one of the wildlife refuges. This list covers the 200+ birds found within an approximate 20-mile radius of downtown Salem. Of course local birders are a wealth of information, you can connect with the local birding community via The Willamette Valley Birders Discussion List.
Wildlife Viewing and Refuges
Ankeny National Refuge
Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge is situated in open farmland near the confluence of the Santiam and Willamette rivers in the middle of the broad Willamette Valley. The 2,796-acre refuge offers excellent wildlife observation areas, trails that meander through wetlands and oak/ash forest, raised boardwalks, interpretive exhibits and observation/photography blinds. Most of the interior of the refuge is closed to public entry while the geese are in residence from Oct. 1-Mar. 31.
Minto-Brown Island Park
Located on Salem’s waterfront, a short 20 minute drive from the hotel, Minto-Brown Island Park spreads out over 1,200 acres of lush, open, and wooded areas.
The park is a waterfowl and wildlife sanctuary with blue herons, ospreys and man bird species. Walk, run, or bike any of the 29 miles of trail that make up nine loops. You can also access Riverfront Park via the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
Baskett Slough National Refuge
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, just about 10 miles from the hotel, provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and plants. Populations of several endangered and threatened animal and plant species can be found on the refuge. Opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, hiking, and environmental education abound. Established in 1965, the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge’s primary management goal is to provide wintering habitat for dusky Canada geese.
A Local Birdwatcher’s Experience
Cheryl Gaston, local birder shares her thoughts on birding in the Willamette Valley and The Independence Hotel’s prime location.
Imagine this: you are walking the Riverwalk outside the Independence Hotel, and something swoops in front of your face. Startled, you see what can only be a hummingbird atop a lone branch just feet from where you stand. You watch it leave the branch and come back…short distances to what might just be its nest. You’re hooked.
Touched by the magic of your divided attention, you begin to hear the music of birdsong all around you, to notice a mama Killdeer direct your attention away from its nest, to watch the swallows dip and drift to eat their fill of mosquitoes, to observe a pair of ospreys defend their nest. You want to know more about all of it.
That’s bird watching. You want to know more…and more. You’ve come to a part of Oregon known for hundreds of species of birds: water fowl, raptors, ducks and geese, songbirds, and great migrations opening you to the wonders of Nature.
Independence, in Oregon’s Willamette River Valley, is among the numerous area spots that draw birders to exercise curiosity, increase knowledge, and feel the passion of the many who delight in sharing their experiences of birding.
This hotel sits near nature preserves and birding hot spots where you can spend time observing on your own or join frequent bird tours and events.
For more information on birding in Independence and the Willamette Valley, check out www.ebird.org.
The Osprey were here first. Before The Independence Hotel was built, Olga and Ollie (named by the hotel) nested at our incredible location on the banks of the Willamette River adjacent to Riverview Park. For many decades the avian couple made this spot their romantic summer getaway. The City of Independence, Pacific Power, and the hotel, placed an osprey cam on their nest. Osprey mate for life and return to the same nest annually. Each spring Osprey pairs arrive in the region and begin diligently nesting and preparing to bring chicks into the world.
In spring of 2020, Ollie disappeared part way through the season and Olga mourned his loss. In 2021, Olga came back to the nest she built and entertained suitors. She didn’t settle in on a partner in 2021, we are waiting to see what happens in 2022. Will Olga return, will another pair claim this coveted real estate? Never a dull moment in the skies of Independence!