A Nature Trail for Recreation and Education
The Fox Creek Trail is a 1/3-mile nature trail located alongside Fox Creek in downtown Rainier. Built and maintained by FFC volunteers, the trail is great for walking, jogging, birdwatching or just relaxing.
The trail makes a figure-eight pattern, winding through maples and conifers 40-120 years old (about a 45-minute walk). Catch a glimpse of Fox Creek and its wetlands, a meadow and dozens of species of native trees, shrubs and perennials. Bring a camera: There is much to see on the trail!
Click on a point of interest for more information.
The trees around you mirror the diversity of the Fox Creek trail – Bigleaf Maple, Red Alder, Western Red Cedar, Pacific Yew (with the reddish bark), Grand Fir, Hazelnut and, down by the creek, Oregon Ash and Willow. Others to watch for along the trail are Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Vine Maple and the non-native English Holly.
This large Alder at the high point of the trail has witnessed many events and changes on the adjoining grounds in the last forty years: the playing field was a paved parking lot until 1996 when Fox Creek was restored through the old playground down below and the excavated soil was spread out upon this terrace. The old school building has been host to grades K-8, K-6, 4-6, North Columbia Academy and Riverside Community Church.
Crooked Douglas Fir
Probably the oldest tree on the nature trail, this veteran was a young seedling when the first school on this site was built at the corner of C Street and 3rd Street West in 1905. The Crooked Douglas Fir is the key landmark on the trail, standing at the center of the figure-eight formed by the trail.
This multi-stemmed Bigleaf Maple may have suffered some cruel blows at the hands of Mother Nature. What is your theory? From this point on the trail you can take the Streamside Loop down to the bank of Fox Creek with the chance of seeing Coho salmon and Steelhead – young or adults. Also watch for the tracks of mammals along the stream.
Native wildflowers along this stretch of trail have been overrun by invasive Himalaya Blackberries in the past, but Friends of Fox Creek volunteers are targeting stretches like this for restoration to trailside galleries of color. The Fox Creek wetland visible from here is flooded during heavy run-off events and Columbia River floods; during the flood of 1996 the trail from this point, nearly to the Stream Overlook, was under water!
Native Understory Plants
Trailside plants along this stretch include Indian Plum (sporting flowers in March), Salmonberry and Sword Fern. Watch for evidence of beaver activity – past or present – on nearby trees as you move up the trail.
Watch for Beavers, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and Steller’s Jays. Nearby is a bed of Inside-Out Flowers, which bloom in late May and June.
Sword Fern, Lady Fern and Bracken Fern adorn this far end of the figure-eight, where the Streambank Loop rejoins the main trail.
Stately Douglas Fir
Gaze up at one of the largest and oldest Douglas Firs on the trail. In the spring, resist the urge to pick the glorious trilliums that grace the trail at this site.
Watch for raccoons napping or hiding in the trees. The common ground cover along much of the trail is a plant called Waterleaf; its flowers are greenish or cream-colored.
The "J" Tree Mystery
How did it get that way? Named in the 1990s by Mr. Whipple’s fourth grade class, this tree is a puzzle to be solved.
In 2008 a tall Douglas Fir crashed to the ground in a storm, smashing a Bigleaf Maple in its path. The remaining snag of the Douglas Fir is above the trail near the Summit Alder. Remnants of both trunks – which had to be cut up to clear the trail – are visible on the trail sides.