Hike of the Week: Theler Wetlands
Hikers read up on what they are about to see at the Theler Wetlands
Nature Study at the tip of Hood Canal
by Craig Romano
photo by Craig Romano
produced by Michael Fagin
June 16, 2006
Quick FactsLocation: Hood Canal
Land Agency: City of Belfair, Washington
Roundtrip: 3.5 miles
Elevation gain: 50 feet
Access: From Bremerton head west on SR 3 to Belfair. Proceed one mile beyond the junction with SR 300 to the Mary E. Theler Community Center (sign for nature trail) located on your right (north side of highway). Park at Community Center; Trailhead is located in northwest corner of lot.
Notes: Trail open dawn to dusk. Dogs are prohibited.
Start your hike of the Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve by passing under a welcome arch and proceeding a quarter mile to the Wetlands Project Center; a de facto visitors center. If you plan your trip accordingly and the center is open, plan on spending some time perusing the exhibits. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of the complex ecosystem you’ll soon be exploring.
Several fully-accessible trails radiate from the Wetlands Center. The Sweetwater Creek and Alder Creek trails make short quarter mile loops from the center. The South Tidal Marsh Trail extends a quarter mile onto a boardwalk right into Hood Canal. It’s advantageous for spotting birds and offers a great view of snowy Olympic Mountain peaks in the distance.
The Union River Estuary Trail is the longest hike in the preserve. It elbows across open wetlands on an old dike; dividing tidal marshes on your left, from freshwater marshes on your right. In a half mile you’ll reach the Union River. The trail then turns east, hugging this nutrient rich waterway for one more mile. At the trail’s terminus, a short spur leads to the river’s edge for prime waterfowl and salmon spawning viewing. You’ll want to return to the Theler Wetlands throughout the year to fully appreciate the life cycles at work in this ecologically important preserve.