Tours and Birding Sites
Provided by The Bridgerland Audubon Society
Four automobile trips and fifteen specific spots to look for birds are described. Numbers in parentheses indicate total miles traveled from the beginning of the trip.
(To print the county map along with birding-site information, go to the Print Center)
Click a number or letter for information:
1. The Mendon Loop (17.7 miles)
A short trip into the heart of Cache marshlands. Although it makes a good bike trip, it is suggested that peddlers return via the Mendon Road instead of the Valley View Highway due to traffic.
The starting point is Willow Park, at 6th South and 5th West in Logan (see The Mendon Loop map) (0.0). Stretch your legs with a walk along the canal behind the zoo to look for roosting raptors, woodpeckers and flocking songbirds in winter. Kingfishers, and snipe might be found near the canal.
Drive north along the west side of the park on 5th West, past the National Guard Armory. Turn left on 5th South, take another left two blocks later onto Park Ave., then a right onto 6th South which turns into Mendon Road (0.65). Drive west through farmlands. If snow melt is present, you will want to pull over often to look at shorebirds, ducks and waders in the fields. Marsh hawks (Northern Harriers) and other raptors (Red-tailed Hawks in summer months, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks in winter) will be seen here. Scan the stubble fields for Long-billed Curlews in spring.
At (4.9) you will see Spring Creek Ranch on the right (north) side of the road; a white cement gateway marks the entrance. Pull over on the shoulder after passing this gate (5.1). Scan all ponds and fields for seasonally abundant ducks, large shorebirds, White-faced Ibis, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night Herons, White Pelican and grebes. Note the large heron rookeries in stands of dead trees just west of the ranch house, about 1/4 mile due north of you. If you are lucky, in May you may see many behavioral courtship displays of the great blue heron in the rookeries. Tree Sparrows frequent roadside shrubs here in the winter.
Drive on over the bridge and park a couple of hundred yards beyond it (5.6). A noisy colony of Yellow-headed Blackbirds and long-billed Marsh Wrens will be found just west of you. Scan the fields on both sides of the road for Sandhill Cranes in the spring and summer. Their croaking call may alert you to their presence. Look closely for the small group of Double-crested Cormorants in this area.
Drive on into Mendon (6.8), take a right onto 4th North, then after 2 blocks turn right at the stop sign onto the highway. Watch for shrikes and kestrels on wires and poles.
Continue to the junction with Valley View Highway (highway 30) at (9.5). Take a right turn, heading back toward Logan. Be extremely careful all along the Valley View Highway when attempting to pull over onto the too-thin shoulder of the road. Traffic here is heavy, fast and unsympathetic. Near open water (10.9) look for Canada Geese, ducks, pelicans and wading herons.
Pull over into the boat landing parking lot at (11.0) on the north (left) side of the road, at the east end of a bridge. This stop will give you a good look around and a chance to listen in spring and early summer for both Sora and Virginia Rail. Listen, too, for the Bittern's thunder pumping sound.
At (13.0), the Benson turnoff, look for Bobolinks in the tall grass in June.
Stop at the Logan fish hatchery (15.2) by pulling over on the right shoulder of the road. Look for shorebirds on the mudflats and surrounding the shallow pools. Black-bellied Plovers have been seen here in the fall, and it is a good place for dowitchers in the summer.
Turn right on 10th West (15.7); drive to 6th South where you will take a left, and retrace your route to Willow Park (17.7).
2. The Amalga-Benson Loop (24.3 miles)
This is a half-day loop trip which takes you into typical valley habitats: marshes, reservoirs, farms and barrens. A note of warning: after a big snowfall, the road between Amalga and the railroad tracks may be impassable.
Start at the James Mack Memorial Park in Smithfield (see The Amalga-Benson Loop map), which can be reached by going east from Main Street 3 blocks on 1st North and turning right (south). Travel one-half block to Canyon Road (0.0) and Mack Park.
Drive west out of town on 1st North. Stop alongside the road before you cross the Bear River (2.8). The bottomlands are a good place to see Black-crowned Night Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Blue Herons.
Continue down the highway and take a right at (3.5), the first crossroads past the turnoff to the cheese factory. Travel 0.9 miles north to Amalga and then turn left (west) on the first paved road which travels west (4.4). This turn is just past a cement silo on the right side of the road, and goes up and over an irrigation ditch right at the turn. For the next 2.8 miles you will be passing through the barrens. Stop and scan the mudflats for a variety of waders - avocets, yellowlegs, Willets, sandpipers and, Wilson's Phalarope.
Turn left (south) at the railroad tracks (7.2) and continue 0.9 miles to a major crossroads (8.1). Continue south and then southeast on this road past a farmhouse until you cross a river (9.4). Park near the bridge and look for White Pelicans, Red-breasted and Common Mergansers and Buffleheads.
Continue on the road until you come alongside the Bear River (11.4). Go south across the bridge (11.9) to Benson (a group of houses) at (12.6). Turn west at this intersection to the Benson Marina and picnic area at (13.7). At (12.9) the road turns to gravel. The open water on both sides of the road here (Cutler Reservoir) provides an opportunity to spot diving ducks. The picnic area is an ideal lunch spot.
Retrace your steps to Benson (14.9) and on to the east skirting the Bear River. At the T intersection (15.9) turn left (north) and continue to the Benson church and school (Cache Instructional Workshop), where you will come to a stop sign at (16.7). Any place along the river here provides an opportunity for seeing a variety of waterfowl Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, widgeon and Western Grebe. Continue north past the school and park on the right shoulder of the road at (17.1). Walk the short gravel loop which edges a rich marsh, where you should look for Yellow-headed Blackbirds and long-billed Marsh Wrens.
Turn around, retrace your path to the school and church (17.4). Take a left, heading east on 3400 North. Drive 0.7 miles to the Y intersection (18.1) and turn left (north) onto 2300 West.
Continue 2.3 miles on this road to (20.4) where a naked cement foundation on the right marks a right turn which skirts a large bend in the river. Take this right and drive to (21.5) where you will find the highway to Smithfield. Turn right here and return to the park in town, (24.3).
3. Tony Grove Trip (53.2 miles)
This is a day-long trip into the canyons where you will find riparian habitat, dense conifers, aspen and sub-alpine areas. Note: the road to the lake itself is open only from late June until October. All suggested stops provide inviting trail walks; see Ann Schimpf's Cache Trails for descriptions of these hikes.
Start at the highway rest stop on the eastbound side of highway 89 at 15th east, just past the U.S.U. campus in, Logan (see Tony Grove Trip map) (0.0).
At (0.5) turn right into a parking lot on Canyon Road to view the reservoir behind First Dam. Look for diving ducks, especially Barrow's and Common Goldeneyes, Hooded Mergansers. Bald Eagles have, been spotted here.
Turn into Spring Hollow Campground at (4.5) miles. Cross the bridge, park in the lot immediate to your right, and walk to the upper picnic areas. Swainson's Thrushes, kinglets, and warblers are a common sight (sound) here. If you continue beyond the upper picnic areas over the footbridge you can hike the Crimson Trail. Ruffed and Blue Grouse and Stellar's jays can be seen here.
At (5.0) miles, just past DeWitt Campground on the north side of U.S. 89 is a sign marking the beginning of the Wind Caves Trail. This is a short 1½ mile hike which is a good place to see Rufous-sided Towhees and Ruffed Grouse. Long-eared Owls have been, heard here.
Your next stop is a must. Turn in at Malibu-Guinavah Campground (5.4) and then left into the Guinavah loop. Follow the signs to the Riverside Nature Trail, and take the 2.0 mile nature trail walk which parallels the Logan River on its south bank. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, hummingbirds, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Lazuli Buntings, Fox, Sparrows, Grey Catbirds, Song Sparrows and flycatchers are all here in spring and early summer. Chickadees and Townsend's Solitaires are abundant in winter, and dippers and kingfishers are here throughout the year.
Look for Wood Camp Campground at (10.5) miles. Drive across the large bridge and park in the cleared area a couple of hundred yards beyond the bridge. Follow the signs to the Old Juniper Trail. If one has the energy to make the 5-6 mile hike to the tree, White-throated Swifts, Turkey Vultures and Goshawks are not uncommon sights in the vicinity of the tree. You pass through sagebrush, aspen, and conifer habitat.
Continue driving up the canyon to mile (19.2) and turn right into the U.S.U. Forestry Summer Camp. Cross the bridge and park near the buildings. Violet-green Swallows nest here.
Drive 0.4 miles further on the Logan Canyon Highway to the Tony Grove Lake Campground turnoff, at (19.6) miles. Drive to the end of the road (26.6). If short on time, a walk around the lake is suggested, (about one mile). For a really rewarding experience, walk up either the White Pine Lake Trail or the Naomi Peak Trail which leave from the north end of the parking loop. In late summer you will find tremendous numbers of aggressive Broad-tailed Hummingbirds here. Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Purple Martins, Mountain Bluebirds, Lincoln's Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow and White-breasted Nuthatch are some possible sightings. Juncos and chickadees, are abundant. Find the Western Wood Peewee in aspens. You will want to save lots of time for this exciting place. It represents some of the most scenic and accessible habitat in this area.
The return trip simply retraces the route back to the Logan rest stop (53.2).
4. Left-Hand Fork Loop (17 miles)
A backcountry trip for rugged vehicles or fair weather friends.
Begin at CJ's Drive-In at the intersection of Utah 101 and 242 on the east edge of Hyrum (see Left-Hand Fork Loop map). Travel 6.5 miles along Utah 242 into Blacksmith Fork Canyon (east) until you come to the large Forest Service sign indicating the Left Hand Fork turnoff.
Along the way to the turnoff, you will parallel the Blacksmith Fork River. During spring and summer Lazuli Buntings and Swainson's Thrushes should be common, especially during early morning and late afternoon. A walk around the dammed lake (approx. 5 miles from the start) may be quite productive for sparrows and warblers. Canyon Wrens and Vesper Sparrows can be heard calling from the dry side of the road. If time permits, check the marshes above the Blacksmith Fork dam for nesting waterfowl.
Left Hand Fork road is a fairly good quality dirt road, but it is narrow so travel slowly and get well off the road when stopping. Regular touring cars should only attempt passage during the dry months of July, August, and September, possibly late June in dry years.
Three and one-half miles up the road you will come to the Blacksmith Fork Guard Station. Another ½ mile down the road is the Forest Service Campground, Friendship. Spring Picnic Area is one mile beyond this. Stop frequently to check the stream underbrush on the right hand side of the road. During the summer Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are common as are the Gray Catbird, MacGillivray's Warbler, and Lincoln's Sparrow. (You will have to work for the last three!)
Continually check ridges on either side of the canyon for Violet-green Swallows. Also look for Townsend's Solitaires on the dry slopes on the west side of the road.
Two miles beyond Spring Picnic area is the first major road junction. Turn left up Herd Hollow to travel to Logan Canyon. You will climb steadily and stay on this same road for 4 miles before coming to a large open sagebrush meadow at the summit. Along this road look ahead for grouse, primarily Blue Grouse. Also, this is a good area for rubber boas and rattlesnakes. Wherever douglas firs can be seen, look and listen for typical sub-alpine species such as the Mountain Chickadee and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. In sagebrush, Vesper Sparrows and the rarer Brewer's Sparrow are possible along with Mountain Bluebirds.
From the summit of the Herd Hollow Road mentioned above, it is about 3.5 miles to Lodge Campground and pavement. From Lodge Campground it is 1 mile to the Logan Highway. This trip can be started just as easily from the Logan Canyon Highway.
By continuing straight ahead back at the Herd Hollow junction, you can follow the Left Hand Fork road for some distance, passing by Gray, Cliff and later Lime Springs where there is a chance of a dipper, and then into extensive sagebrush flats where Vesper and Brewer's Sparrows are guaranteed if you are familiar with the songs. This would constitute about five mile, one way detour over very bumpy roads. However, it is an exciting little detour with beautiful cliffs and wildflowers during the months of June, July and August.
A. Dry Lake. (Roadside viewing, recommended for spring and
summer, 15.0 miles from downtown Logan.) Ponds and marshes near the summit of Sardine
Canyon on Highway 89-91. Park near the stock driveway on the south end of the valley. This
is the flyway from the Great Salt Lake to Cache marshes used by the White-faced Ibis
and White Pelican.
B. Hyrum Reservoir.(Roadside viewing, recommended
for spring and summer, 15.0 miles from downtown Logan.) Drive south on 4th West in Hyrum
to reach the reservoir. Park in the parking lot or drive to the spillway and bridge just
beyond it to view birds. Bank Swallows nest here. An occasional Loon,
Western Grebes and diving ducks use the deep water behind the spillway for fishing.
C. Hardware Ranch. (Easy walk, 22.0 miles from downtown
Logan) [Take UT 101 going east of Hyrum through Blacksmith Fork Canyon]. The visitor center and open country around it are great places to view Golden
Eagles (all year) Bald Eagles (in winter) and Turkey Vultures (summer).
E. Old Main Hill and the U.S.U. Campus. (Easy
walk, winter only) Between the campus buildings and 7th East, concrete walkways on the
hillside are good birding spots for Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings,
Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and Cassin's Finches. Trees all around campus
should be checked for Pine Siskins and Townsend's Solitaire. The cemetery behind the HPER
building (at 10th North and 12th East) is good for small songbirds and a regular Great
F. Canal trail along Canyon Road. (Easy walk) This
1-mile path begins at a drivewav on the southeast corner of 4th North and 6th East in
Logan. It parallels Canyon Road past Pehrson's Floral, and is excellent warbler habitat in
the spring. Owls are often sighted in winter. Spring viewing may also include Rough-winged
Swallow, White-throated Swift, orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lazuli
J. Franklin Basin Drive (Roadside viewing,
recommended for spring and summer, 15.0 miles from downtown Logan) 3.3 miles north of
highway 89 on the Franklin Basin Road to the site of the Soil Conservation Service
Klondike Narrows Snow Survey Station. Early morning birding is best (be- fore 8:30 a.m.)
and is fairly good again from 4:30 p.m. until dark. Twenty species nest here, including
the Dusky Flycatcher, Western Wood Peewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Mountain
K. Green Canyon. (Easy walk, 15.0 miles from
downtown Logan) Drive east on 19th North in North Logan as far as you can take your car.
In the lower reaches of the hike both Ruffed and Blue Grouse can be seen, as
well as chickadees and kinglets. An occasional Poor-will or Canyon Wren
might be heard. Near the ridge, Clark's Nutcracker and a Golden Eagle or two
may be seen by the careful birder.
L. Logan-Cache Airport. (Roadside viewing,
4.1 miles from downtown Logan) The road on the south side of the airport is a good spot
for Short-eared Owls in the years when they are abundant, water pipits (winter) and
snipe. Listen for winnowing snipe in the spring. Several hots springs on nearby 6th West
keep some open water present all year.
N. Wellsville Ridge. (strenuous hike, 7.0
miles form downtown Logan) Although breezy and chilly in the fall this is a good place for
migratory hawk and eagle watching from late August until November. Gray-crowned Rosy
Finches and Rock Wrens are also a possibility on the barren, rocky slopes. Use
Deep Canyon trail, which can be found by following the dirt road extension of 3rd North in
Mendon. Once on top, walk north on the west ridge about ½ mile, find a high nook to sit
in, and face north for hawk watching.