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The Observer Paper 10/22/14

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TAKE A LOOK

David Bronson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife checks waterfowl at the new Tule Lake Nature Area. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
David Bronson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife checks waterfowl at the new Tule Lake Nature Area. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

Dick Mason

Staff Writer

o bugles or drums will be heard during the opening of the Tule Lake Nature Area Saturday morning.

The calls of white-fronted geese, tundra swans and great blue herons may sound instead.

These are among the many birds that visitors will see and hear while visiting the new 400-acre Tule Lake Nature Area. No opening ceremony is planned, but visitors will have plenty to celebrate.

"It's a new opportunity for people to experience nature,'' said Dave Larson, manager of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.

The wildlife viewing site is in the northeast corner of the 6,000-acre Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the City of La Grande worked together to create the site.

The centerpieces of the Tule Lake Nature Area are a one-mile trail that circles a wetland and a one-mile auto tour route on an improved gravel road.

The hiking trail will fill an important void.

"People have always wanted to know where they could hike around wetlands,'' Larson said.

Hikers can leave their vehicles in a new gravel parking area. The trail is level and not difficult to complete. Larson noted, though, that it is unimproved and that conditions can change daily.

"At times it may be muddy,'' Larson said.

Most of the auto tour route follows a straight path that takes motorists north for about a mile along a stream. The tour route ends at the site of the old Willowdale School, which now houses headquarters of the Grande Ronde Bush Pilots' radio-controlled airplane flying field.

There is plenty of space on the road for people to pull over and watch wildlife. Visitors will see more than white-fronted geese, tundra swans and great blue herons. Visitors also may see bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, Canada geese and possibly sandhill cranes, Larson said. Sandhill cranes were recently spotted in another part of Ladd Marsh.

Black-necked stilts, American avocets, sandpipers and other waterfowl will begin arriving within a month.

"People will be able to see new migrants every week,'' Larson said.

Until now almost all of Ladd Marsh has been closed to the public except during fall and winter hunting seasons. The only areas open have been Glass Hill west of Peach Road and a nature trail on the south end of Ladd Marsh.

The Tule Lake Nature Area will be open each day, from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, through Aug. 31.

The wildlife viewing site is not complete. Larson later hopes to add an information kiosk, wildlife-viewing platforms and a restroom.

The Tule Lake Nature Area is on land owned by the City of La Grande and managed by the ODFW. The City of La Grande provides treated wastewater for its ponds and helped with the construction of the road being used for the auto tour route.

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