Wiley Slough is a flat walk on a wide gravel path. This out-and-back walk is on Fir Island, an island you arrive upon simply by crossing the South Fork of the Skagit River. The Skagit Valley is an agriculture-rich area and home to an abundance of birds and waterfowl. The trail is wide and marked frequently with signs delineating the legal areas for waterfowl hunting. Hunting is generally from September 1 to March 1.
Recent work has removed trees and bushes alongside the trail in order to aid in flood control. The duck blinds are gone and the view is more expansive. The tides dictate how much water fills the area. There is a lot of woody debris in the water, providing protection from predators.
The trail is flat and open. While that aids in amazing views, it can also be very windy. A jacket will be helpful. Follow the wide trail as it winds along the water. On the west side, you will quickly come to a well-marked Bird Viewing blind, a brown structure that is wheelchair accessible. It’s a nice spot to get out of the wind and observe bald eagles, great blue herons and other flying creatures. Crows, robins, wrens and a variety of ducks can also be observed. See how many giant eagle nests you can spot.
Continuing on, the view gets more expansive. Look out at the tall snags in the water and you’ll likely spot perching bald eagles. If you watch for a while, one may take flight, circle and catch the thermals, rising high into the sky. If you are lucky, as I was, you’ll catch an aerial battle for the furry food one eagle was bringing to its nest.
Close to the shore search for great blue herons standing in the water. They blend in so well, it’s hard to spot them until they take flight. Listen for the sound of their wings, it’s amazing! During the winter season, you will see farm fields filled with trumpeter swans and snow geese. If you stop and listen, you’ll hear a chorus as they continuously honk to each other, while gathering food.
Walk as far as you want or until you reach the end. The trail narrows a bit. Turn back and enjoy a different view of what Skagit Wildlife Area has to offer.