Three Ways to Become a Local Outdoors Expert

A trio of Portland-based conservation organizations offer up tours and field trips to help you master the Great Outdoors.

By Sarah Hopwood February 1, 2016

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A second-growth forest on the Elochoman River

Image: Doug Gorsline

As Oregonians, we pride ourselves on being nature-savvy. But with the never-ending list of parks, wetlands, beaches, mountains, and canyons begging for our attention, we can’t be expected to know it all. Thankfully, with the help of a few local conservation organizations—Columbia Land Trust, Audubon Portland, and Oregon Metro—we can give things like canyon geology and identifying rare bird species the old college try. Below, a primer on upcoming day trips, weekend excursions, and even weeks-long treks through Texas and Thailand.

Explore PNW Natural Wonders with Columbia Land Trust

Columbia Land Trust has been committed to preserving nature in the Pacific Northwest for the past 25 years. In the process of conserving 28,000 acres of land, they’ve engaged thousands of Oregonians with their educational tours, day trips, and volunteer events like “Find the Frogs!” in Indian Jack Slough and “Farms and Stars," a tour of a dairy farm that transitions into late-night star gazing. All-day classes run about $75 on several Saturdays throughout the year. Transportation, snacks, and lunch are provided. 

Bird Watch in Borneo with Audubon Society of Portland

The Audubon Society of Portland has roots dating back as early as 1903, with the passing of a law that prohibited people from shooting wild birds and selling them in the marketplace. Since that first stroke of precocious conservation, they’ve worked hard to preserve Oregon's wildlife, from salmon to the Northern Spotted Owl. The Audubon Society now offers classes in bird watching, and hosts forums on topics like the Willamette River Superfund and how the EPA might help clean up the 10-mile stretch of contaminated river. Check out the society's list of guided tours through places like Southern Texas—and even destinations as far-flung as Borneo.

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Dive Deep Into Urban Natural Areas with Oregon Metro

Oregon Metro wants to connect you (and your kids) to the land around you. The organization has officially served the 1.5 million people of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties since 1993, but it's existed in some form since the late 1950s. Some of Metro's current offerings include a tour through winter forests to learn how to identify plants and trees in their leafless winter state, and “Geology of Newell Creek Canyon,” in which a naturalist will guide you through the stories of rocks at the history-steeped site.

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