Confluence Trail

The Sandy River Delta is an extremely popular recreation site about 20 minutes east of Portland, a haven for people and dogs from the surrounding cities. This restored wetland and forest ecosystem is also a haven for birds and wildlife, and is traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering grounds of the Upper Chinook people. The Confluence Trail travels the length of the delta, with nice views of Wy’east (Mount Hood) and the Sandy River and Columbia River confluence ecosystem. It ends at an elliptical bird blind designed by Maya Lin, a work of art in itself. An audio tour is also available from the Confluence Project.

A typical section of the Confluence Trail. This is where it crosses the Meadow Trail.
A typical section of the Confluence Trail. This is where it crosses the Meadow Trail. It is open and sunny with trees in the background.

Spoon Rating

Two spoons, wheelchair hikeable. The gravel is a little loose in some areas and there may be sections of mud with exposed roots. The boardwalk has three short rises up to 1.5”.

Trail Stats

Distance: 2.5 miles out and back Elevation Change: 20 ft Max Grade: 8% Max Cross-Slope: 5% Typical Width: 4 feet Typical Surface: Pea gravel, natural, boardwalk; Amenities: Toilets, picnic tables Pet Friendly: yes, but dogs must be leashed on the Confluence Trail and within 100 feet of the trail on either side. Notes: This recreation site is one of the largest off-leash areas, and can be extremely busy, especially on weekends. There is limited shade and no water.

Getting There

From Portland, take I-84 east through Troutdale to exit 18. Turn right on Jordan Rd, following signs for Sandy River Delta. Once you enter the site, continue to the circular parking area at the end. There are four van accessible parking spots. Access the trailhead from the curb cut at the accessible parking spots.

Trail Description

Last visit: June 2021

Start at the information sign by the toilets. Follow the paved path then transfer to a compact gravel surface and curve left then right, following a sign that reads “to the confluence bird blind by Maya Lin”. There are a few rocks on an approximately 5% decline and a bit of a steep cross slope as you’re curving left to access the trail. The trail begins with four vertical wood poles that are 32 inches apart to block motorized use on the trail, but also make it a bit of a tight squeeze if you’re using a wheelchair or walker.

Start of the Confluence Trail with four wood poles.
The four wood poles at the start of the Confluence Trail, with a 32″ gap in between.

Pass between the poles then take a 2% incline for about 30 feet, continuing on compact pea gravel. The trail continues generally level and even at four feet wide. You are traveling through open grassland with lots of cottonwood trees along the trail, but not a lot of shade. The pea gravel may be a little loose and deep at around 0.25 mile. At 0.3 mile, there is a big oak tree for shade but no bench. At 0.4 miles there’s a 2% incline then the trail rolls slightly. Horsetail, lupine and other wild flowers line the trail.

At 0.6 miles, there is an 8% incline for approximately 30 feet before it levels out and crosses the Meadow Trail. Continue straight ahead on the compact gravel trail, passing a sign that points to the Confluence Bird Blind. There’s a short 5% cross slope as you crossover a drainage area.

At 1.0 mile, you enter the forest and there is an interpretive sign on the right  about this area as traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds. The trail gets a little uneven as the surface becomes a mix of slightly eroded compact gravel and natural surface. Take a 5% decline on a potentially muddy surface then curve left and pass under some low hanging branches. The surface becomes mostly natural and may be a little muddy and soft, but it is nice and shaded here. Take a 5% incline for about 10 feet.

A wide, muddy section of trail on the Confluence Trail
The wide, muddy section of trail with standing water in the center. There are some exposed roots on both sides of the trail.

At 1.1 miles, you come to an area that may have deep mud (I visited in June 2021 and there was about a half an inch of mud). The side channel of the Sandy River is on the left, with a few pretty viewpoints. Take a 3% incline for about 30 feet and continue on a potentially slightly muddy trail.

At 1.2 miles, there’s a section that may have standing water and/or mud in the middle of the trail. The trail width has been widened from people bypassing it, and it would be impassable with a standard wheelchair. At 1.3 miles, come to a 2% incline followed by a 2% decline with a 5% cross slope. Curve left and pass an interpretive sign on the right. The trail branches off to a couple of footpaths, but just follow the main trail and you’ll come to a boardwalk.

The start of the boardwalk on the Confluence Trail.
The start of the boardwalk that leads to the bird blind. Not the exposed rises onto the boardwalk.

There are three small rises onto the boardwalk. The first one is less than half an inch, the second one is a little under an inch, and the third one is an inch and a half. The boardwalk is a 2% incline with metal barriers on both sides, leading to the bird blind.

The bird blind is made of tall vertical wood slats inscribed with the names and current status of each of 134 species noted by Lewis and Clark. There may be a view of the river during the winter, but otherwise the blind provides a screened view of surrounding trees and wetlands where you may take some time for birding.

The bird blind at the end of the Confluence Trail
The bird blind by Mary Lin. It is an elliptical shape built with tall wooden slats.

Pass/Entry Fee

Day use fee or federal recreation pass. State recreation passes are not accepted.

Land Acknowledgement

This is the traditional lands of the Upper Chinook people. To the west of the Sandy River, the Multnomah (Wappato) and Clackamas bands of the Upper Chinook people were based between the Cowlitz and Sandy Rivers. On the other side of the Sandy River Delta, the Wasco band lived the furthest east of the Chinook people. Information from: Confluence Project

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