Flickr album link: Powder River Recreation Area
A few articles have been published about the Sumpter Valley and the migration season birding around the old dredging ponds. The Powder River runs through this valley to the Phillips Lake Reservoir, which was created by the Mason Dam. On the other side of the dam is where the river runs through a narrow canyon and this is the location of the Powder River Recreation Area. When passing by on Oregon Highway 7 through the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, it is all too easy to assume that the Powder River Recreation Area is just a typical trout fishing access, but there is more to the story.
One of the best little nature trails in this state runs through this recreation area on the other side of the river. Two wooden pedestrian bridges can be found in the upper and lower parking areas and these crossings are the trailheads. The Powder River Interpretive Trail goes through the riverside wilderness in between the bridges and a wide variety of species can be seen on any given day. There is also a picnic area on top of the Mason Dam, so this is a great spot for doing an early morning wildlife viewing walk with a brunch in the park as a happy ending.
Just after dawn during the autumn season, the Powder River Recreation Area certainly has a mystical air about it. The ground fog turns into a mist as the sun rises and the sounds of the deep forest come to life. In fact, some odd unidentifiable sounds can be heard on occasion too. During my visit, I hear a warbling bird call that I have only heard parrots make, but it was obvious that it was coming from a large raptor. I assumed it was an owl while looking around, then all of a sudden the largest eagle that I have ever seen flew from behind just a few feet overhead to a tall tree on the other side of the Powder River. I snapped a few photos as it was going overhead, but the photos were blurry because I had no time to change out of the landscape slow shutter speed settings in the camera. When looking I noticed this gigantic eagle had an extra large beak before it flew onward into the shadows. This made me think that this big brown bird was a sea eagle of some kind. Anything is possible in this changing world, so if you hear a strange bird call at the Powder River Recreation Area in the morning, be sure to have a camera ready in birding mode, so there will at least be some proof when telling the story!
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