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Leavenworth-Icicle area

Leavenworth is a good base for several birding routes, both driving and on-foot. The town is located at the confluence of the Icicle and Wenatchee rivers, and the landscape includes spectacular canyons, pastoral meadows, and much riparian habitat that provides good birding in all seasons. A short, easy walking route in town is a good introduction to birding in Leavenworth.

Access and Logistics

Leavenworth is on State Route (SR) 2, 100 miles east of Everett and 22 miles west of Wenatchee. Leavenworth is a “theme” tourist town with a complete set of services and lodging. Cell service is available in Leavenworth, but spotty to non-existent away from downtown.

Major Habitats along Route
  • Riparian zones, open water, and rushing streams
  • Agricultural lands
  • Steep canyon walls
  • Dry to mesic forests.

Birds and Seasons to Visit

Seasons. Most of these routes are excellent in all seasons, but are especially worthwhile during spring and fall migration. The “Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest,” usually held the 3rd weekend in May, is a great way to get acquainted with birding opportunities in the area. The website: www.leavenworthspringbirdfest.com includes yearly lists of species that have been seen during Bird Fest broken down into specific areas.

Birds. Most notable are migratory and resident song birds including American dippers (U.S. high counts of dippers have occurred on Leavenworth's Christmas Bird Count); waterfowl including breeding harlequin ducks; raptors, such as nesting osprey, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons; and black-backed, white-headed and Lewis's woodpeckers.

Routes

Walking route: Waterfront Park (Blackbird Island). Park at Barn Beach Reserve parking lot ($5 parking) or along Commercial Street, between 7th and 8th Streets (free). This easy, flat trail follows the Wenatchee River from Enchantment Park at the west end of town to 13th Street at the east end of town. The trail has interpretive signs about natural and cultural history, beautiful views, picnic tables, benches, and river access points along the way.

A variety of riparian birds may be seen in season: various ducks, swans, grebes, various woodpeckers, including pileated woodpeckers, plus songbirds from American dippers, gray catbird, various warblers, northern orioles, bluebirds, thrushes. After late spring, some of these birds are more likely to be heard than seen because of thick streamside vegetation. Besides avian species, mule deer, black bear, river otter, raccoons may be seen, depending on season and time of day, and Chinook salmon spawn in the fall. Time can be profitably spent at Barn Beach Reserve, on the east end of the trail. Finches and other species can be seen at feeders near the Red Barn, above the Waterfront Trail ; in the big trees on the Reserve, look for white-headed woodpeckers.

Driving Loop: East Leavenworth Rd—Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery –Icicle Road to Icicle Gorge Trail –Icicle Road. East Leavenworth and Icicle roads are narrow, winding, and 2-lanes, so be alert for traffic, and make sure to be fully off the road when pulling over.

Starting from the west (Icicle Road), check out the side roads, Wilson, Shore, and Prowell, and, if time and energy permit, the Icicle Ridge Trail, which is accessed from the trailhead on the west side of Icicle Road about 1.4 miles south of SR 2. Further along Icicle Road, either continue the loop by turning left onto East Leavenworth Road, or continue straight ahead on Icicle Road and further into Icicle Canyon through scenic habitat along Icicle River and flanked by granite cliffs. Canyon wrens may sometimes be heard or seen in the canyon, and harlequin ducks may sometimes be observed in the river.

The continuation of the loop along East Leavenworth Road extends through riparian and farmland with views to the river. The continuation of the loop along East Leavenworth Road extends through riparian and farmland with views to the river.

Side Trips

Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (not to be missed!). From the junction of East Leavenworth Road and Icicle River Road, drive 0.25 mile south along Icicle River Road and turn left into Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. From the parking area, walk out over the bridge to find a nature trail which borders Icicle River (Creek) with viewing blinds along the way. The hatchery nature trail is a renowned birding location, with warblers, kingfishers, dippers, flycatchers, catbirds, kinglets, shorebirds, and waterfowl in season. An entire morning could easily be spent here, especially in the spring.

Icicle Gorge Trail. If time and energy permit, continue on Icicle River Road 15.3 miles from SR 2 (the last 3 miles are unpaved) to the parking lot for the Icicle Gorge Trail (NW Forest Pass required). Hike the trail which extends along one side of the river and returns on the other (total elevation gain in the 4 miles is 150 feet). Habitat includes dark cedar bottoms, young forest, and hillside meadow and forest with an accompanying variety of birds.

Mountain Home Ridge (Chelan-Douglas Land Trust property). From the SR 2 stoplight in Leavenworth just southeast of the bridge over the Wenatchee River, turn southwest onto East Leavenworth Road. In about 500 feet, turn left onto Mountain Home Road. In 3.5 miles, see a sign indicating “end of county road” and a large pullout on the right (west side of road). Park in the pullout and enter the property via the old road on the left (east) side of Mountain Home Road. The old road is gated, but public access is allowed. Walk the old road through an upland wetland with fine views of the surroundings and a large variety of birds. More information and a map may be found at: www.cdlandtrust.org

 

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