Park Spotlight: Union Bay Natural Area

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It has been awhile since the Babylady and I ventured out for a new park adventure. We’ve gone to the usual playground-parks in the neighborhood when it hasn’t been too wet. But I am really ready for some non-playground action. I am ready to wander the P-Patches. Walk on trails. Run through open grassy fields. Go to parks that aren’t playgrounds in the play structure sort of way.

Last week, after a nearby chiropractor appointment, the Babylady and I hit the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA).  It is located by the University of Washington and Center for Urban Horticulture. We’d been late last summer and loved it and a spring visit did not disappoint!

What is there? The area is 74 acres and includes 4 miles of coastline along Lake Washington. Considered to be one of the best birding locations in Seattle, 200 types of birds have been seen on the site. The park has a variety of habitats in a relatively small area. It has a lake as well as both permanent and seasonal ponds. There are grasslands, prairie, marshes and small forested areas. No wonder there are so many birds!

History (since 1912): It is the site of a former landfill closed in the 1960’s. Prior to the landfill the area was a peat marsh created when Lake Washington was lowered in the early 1900’s and the Montlake Cut opened. This was done to create waterway for larger ships from Lake Washington to the Puget Sound. More detailed timeline here.

Our visit: We went one of the first warm days of the year… in mid-May. It is a fantastic park for kids and adults alike. The main trails are wide enough for a 3-year-old with boundless energy to run and get her willies out. Despite being so close to major shopping areas, the University and major roadways you get a sense of being alone except for thousands of birds calling. There are so many cool things to look at. Ducks! Birds! Geese! Roly-poly bugs! Dandelions! Rocks! Dirt! Flowers!

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural areaMap. We didn’t look at it until afterwards and chose to wander around instead. Ok, I actually didn’t notice it until after we were through for the day.

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural areaAnd we’re off….

But wait. Before we go. If you have kids, do they get outside? I don’t mean to the playground. Or backyard. Or a walk through a residential area. I mean out, out. Out in nature. Getting dirty. Exploring. Seeing. Hearing. Smelling. Running. Learning. Expanding. Following paths and trails. If not, do. Do what you can to get out there. It is so important. It is no time clothes that don’t play. This is the time for clothes you can move in and shoes for running, climbing and mud puddle stomping. Make their heart pump and sing.

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural areaSo peaceful!

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area Hard to believe you are so close to UW campus

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area or to the traffic and backlog of the 520 bridge.

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural areaBees! And seemingly surprise apple trees (!?)

I started seeing woven nest-like objects made from blackberry canes. Turns out they were the work of UW students in the College of the Environment. Environmental art. Very cool!grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area enironmental artSo unexpected and pretty

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area enironmental artLittle baskets on the ground…

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area enironmental artOn sticks…

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area enironmental artGiant collapsed installations

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area enironmental artScattered around like treasures waiting for the Babylady and me to discover them.

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area Smaller trails beg to be explored

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area and they take you to ponds full of ducks

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area We saw a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area Taking a break for roly-poly bug capturing and grass picking

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area heron turtlesBefore we came across all the lovelies here! Blue Heron and lots of turtles!

Apparently, there is a rookery of herons (a nesting colony) on the University of Washington campus! Who knew? I sure didn’t. But they pop on over for some tasty treats at the UBNA to feed to their squawking hatchlings.

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area heronLooking for food. She was successful!

grow and resist park spotlight union bay natural area Happy, happy, happy!

It was a great day and we had a dusty, muddy, sweaty and awe-inspiring time. If you are local do check it out!

Missed previous Park Spotlights? Check them out: Jack Block Park and White Center Heights Park.

You can read more about the Union Bay Natural Area here and here.

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