Birding Washington County | Site Guides | Hagg Lake
Site Guide: Scoggins Valley Park and Henry Hagg Lake, Washington County, Oregon

Hagg Lake
South end of Hagg Lake looking north. Photo April 2003 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
A view of Hagg Lake looking SE from up Scoggins Valley Road. Photo April 2003 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

House Wren
House Wren at Hagg Lake. Photo 28 June 2003 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler at Hagg Lake. Photo 28 June 2003 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
View from Elks Picnic Area. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Western Tanager
Western Tanager at Hagg Lake. Photo 28 June 2003 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

American Dipper
American Dipper at Scoggins Creek Picnic Area. Photo 11 December 2004 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Lake below Lee Road. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Sain Creek. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Recreation Area C. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Fishing pier. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
North end of lake. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Scoggins Creek arm in NW corner of Hagg Lake looking north. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
View of Scoggins Creek arm of Hagg Lake looking south from Wall Creek. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

American Dipper
Band-tailed Pigeons at Scoggins Creek Picnic Area. Photo 28 May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Recreation Area A West. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Hagg Lake
Recreation Area A East. Photo May 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

copyright 2006 by Greg Gillson

Hagg Lake is a deep reservoir on the edge of the Willamette Valley. It is nestled up against the foothills of the Coast Range in western Washington County. As a result the habitats around the lake include willow lined creek bottoms, muddy shores, grassy fields, oak knolls, mixed deciduous and conifer woods, and some remnants of mature Douglas-fir forest.

Band-tailed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeons are abundant summer residents around Hagg Lake. Photo May 29, 2006 by Greg Gillson. Click for larger view.

Birds around the lake reflect the high diversity of habitats. In winter, loons and grebes join the numerous varieties of diving and dabbling ducks. Accipiters are found year-around. Bald Eagles and Osprey nest. The woods attract many Neotropical migrants in spring and many remain to nest. Birds such as Swainson’s Thrushes, Orange-crowned Warblers, Warbling Vireos, and Black-headed Grosbeaks are abundant. On the wet, brushy hillsides Yellow-breasted Chats and Willow Flycatchers are regular summer residents. In the more mature forests Winter Wrens, Hairy Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Pileated Woodpeckers are resident. Owls are abundant around the lake, with Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls regular.

Washington County incorporated the entire lake and buffer lands around the lake, back several hundred feet, into Scoggins Valley Park. The well-marked turn-off to Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park is about 5 miles south of Forest Grove on Oregon State Highway 47. The fee booth ($5 in 2006) is 3 miles from the Highway on Scoggins Valley Road. Facilities include several picnic areas, restrooms, and boat ramps. The lake is very popular for fishing, boating, picnicking, and biking. The park is open, dawn to dusk, from early March to late November. When closed, in winter, parking is allowed on the shoulders of the county roads circling the lake. Good birding can still be had from the wide bike lanes and road shoulders all around the lake. In addition several pull-outs give a good view for scoping out waterbirds on the lake.

Scoggins Valley Road and West Side Road circle the lake. It is about 12 miles around on the roads. This loop is very popular with bikers, as there are dedicated bicycle lanes around most of the lake. In addition, the lake is circled by a network of muddy trails, shared with hikers, fishers, and mountain bikers. Birders should be cautious of slipping on the muddy trails near the lakeshore. Another potential hazard is poison oak, especially in spring before the leaves appear. Be alert for this plant on trails through oak or mixed woods.

The roads and trails make all parts of the lake available for birding and other uses. The earlier one arrives the better, as vehicle tire noise and motor boat engine noise can make hearing birds difficult later in the day, especially in summer. The following site guide takes one clockwise around the lake, starting with the dam on the southeast end of the lake.

Hagg Lake map
Map of Hagg Lake birding sites. Click for map alone in printable window.

A) Elks Picnic Area

About 0.3 miles past the fee booth turn left on West Shore Drive and cross over the dam. There is no stopping or parking along the dam. Immediately on the south end of the dam, pull into the Elks Picnic Area. In summer, Black-throated Gray Warblers and Chestnut-backed Chickadees call from the small woods, while Northern Rough-winged Swallows nest along the steep banks of the shoreline. Look over the hillside above for Ospreys and Bald Eagles. Listen for Pileated Woodpeckers calling. Open areas and brushy fence lines across the street have Song Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, White-crowned Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Winter sparrow flocks contain Fox Sparrows and, rarely, White-throated Sparrows. In winter scope the end of the lake from here, paying attention to the rocky fill of the dam itself for Spotted Sandpipers. The area near the dam is good for Horned Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, Common Loons, and other deep water birds in winter. Another area to briefly scope out this south end of the lake is 0.2 miles further at an overlook and small pullout. Again, in winter watch for Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, and Common Mergansers. More unusual birds include Pacific and Red-throated Loons, Greater Scaups, and Red-necked Grebes.

Lee Road map

Map of Lee Road birding sites. Click for map alone in printable window.

B) Lee Road

Another 0.6 miles, or about 0.8 miles from the dam is a private road marked as Cascara Lane. There is a pullout opposite this lane within view of the foot of Lee Road [1]. A two mile loop hike here, down to the lakeshore and back along the road, visits several habitats and is excellent for finding many of the land birds around the lake.

Summer birds right along the road edge at the parking area opposite Cascara Lane include Warbling Vireos, Orange-crowned Warblers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Spotted Towhees, Hutton’s Vireos, and Yellow-breasted Chats. One unusual summer species that is regularly found near the foot of Lee Road is Cassin’s Vireo.

Walk down to a quiet backwater arm of the lake on its southwest shore [2]. Approach the water stealthily, watching for Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks. There is an interesting mix of oak and western hemlock here and along the trail northward. Summer birds include Wilson’s Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, and Western Tanagers. Resident species include Winter Wrens, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Hairy Woodpeckers, Steller’s Jays, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Purple Finches, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Continuing northward away from the immediate shoreline, the trail skirts the lower edge of two meadows [3]. Watch for Tree Swallows, Vaux’s Swifts, Downy Woodpeckers, Bushtits, Song Sparrows, Brown Creepers, Bewick’s Wrens, and other similar birds either over the meadows or in the trees along the edge. After the second meadow follow the trail back up toward the road. Keep an eye out for poison oak as you near the road.

Once you come out on West Shore Drive, follow it back toward your vehicle. Across the road is a strip of Douglas-fir forest bounded by a recent clearcut on private land. Walk down a little access road to the edge of the park boundary [4] and look over the clearcut on the hillside. The trees here regularly produce Pileated Woodpeckers and Red-breasted Sapsuckers. This is a good area for resident Steller’s Jays, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, Pine Siskins, and Hutton’s Vireos. Watch for Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers from fall through spring. Western Tanagers, Western Wood Pewees, and Olive-sided Flycatchers are found in summer.

The clearcut has several different birds. California Quails, Bewick’s Wrens, Cooper’s Hawks, Spotted Towhees, and Northern Flickers are resident. In summer listen for Yellow-breasted Chats, Willow Flycatchers, and perhaps Lazuli Buntings on the brushy hillside. Other summer birds include Wilson’s Warblers, Evening Grosbeaks, Band-tailed Pigeons, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Warbling Vireos, Cedar Waxwings, MacGillivray’s Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, and Swainson’s Thrushes.

Walk back to Lee Road on West Shore Drive, continuing to listen for the birds listed above. The foot of Lee Road itself has some open woods where you may add Black-capped Chickadees, Bushtits, and Purple Finches. If you walk up Lee Road to the white gate, just around the bend after leaving the park property [5], you can get a roadside view of the clearcut and a better spot to hear birds. Also search the snags and skies over the clearcut for hawks.

There are similar trails and habitats from Hankins Road to Sain Creek. The area below Hankins Road is especially good for Hutton's Vireos, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Brown Creepers. The Sain Creek arm of the lake is especially good for nesting Wood Ducks and occasionally Ruffed Grouse.

C) Sain Creek Picnic Area

About 3.0 miles from the dam is the Sain Creek Picnic Area. This area with large oaks and lawn down to the water is a popular recreation site. One can park across the road from the intersection of Sain Creek Road and walk down to the mouth of Sain Creek (watch for poison oak!), and from there to the picnic area and back along the road. In summer expect Black-headed Grosbeaks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, Hutton’s Vireos, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Orange-crowned Warblers, Barn Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Swainson’s Thrushes, Purple Finches, Spotted Towhees, White-crowned Sparrows, and similar species. This is one of the few areas to find White-breasted Nuthatches around the lake. In winter the lake level is much lower and Sain Creek splashes over cobble that occasionally host American Dippers. Brushy areas host flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos and other winter sparrows.

D) Recreation Area C

Just around the corner from Sain Creek is the boat ramp and Recreation Area C. This area has good birding potential but can become quite busy with recreational activities in summer. It is quite productive in fall and winter. Scope the Sain Creek inlet for migrant and wintering waterfowl including Common Mergansers, American and Eurasian Wigeons, Common Loons, and Canada Geese. Scope the shoreline for wintering Spotted Sandpipers. The open picnic areas can host Western Bluebirds in winter. Walk over to the fishing pier where one can scope out the north end of the lake. Western Grebes are common migrants and winter vistors, watch also for Clark’s Grebes and other rare water birds such as loons or scoters. Careful scoping of the distant shores across the lake from here often turns up Spotted Sandpipers. California Gulls are regular migrants and winter visitors. Other gulls occur. Rare spring and fall migrants include Bonaparte’s Gulls and Caspian Terns. The brushy line of trees along the back side of the parking lot contains many migrant and wintering birds. Watch for Varied Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, California Quails, Hermit Thrushes, Hutton’s Vireos, Bewick’s Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Townsend’s Warblers.

E) Mouth of Scoggins Creek

There are two brief stops here to scope out the north end of the lake. There is a parking lot 0.3 miles north of Recreation Area C below Scott Hill. There is a pull off and open area another 0.5 miles further. Both areas are good for spotting water birds on the lake in fall and winter. Resident birds include Western Scrub-Jays, Song Sparrows, American Crows, Great Blue Herons, and Bewick’s Wrens in the rather open grassy areas. In summer this area adds Western Wood-Pewees, Orange-crowned Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Swainson’s Thrushes, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Warbling Vireos, and Willow Flycatchers. Turkey Vultures are frequent along the lake here or over the hillside.

F) Scoggins Creek Picnic Area

About 4.7 miles from the dam is the quiet little Scoggins Creek Picnic Area at the far northwest corner of the lake. The bedrock edges of Scoggins Creek give habitat for the resident American Dippers. Scores of Band-tailed Pigeons drink from the river here. They are attracted to mineral springs and evidently find something in the water here that they like. Dense Douglas-firs and bigleaf maples crowd the river. Pileated Woodpeckers are often heard in the forested hillside above.

G) Mouth of Wall Creek

Watch for an Osprey nest 0.3 miles after leaving Scoggins Creek Picnic Area. Another 0.3 miles brings you to the intersection of West Side Road into Scoggins Valley Road. A parking area here at the mouth of Wall Creek has a small marshy habitat. A Yellow-breasted Chat usually takes up residence here, and Willow Flycatchers, too. A muddy path out along the forested lakeshore to the southeast often brings sightings of Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Wood Ducks, Purple Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Warbling Vireos, Rufous Hummingbirds, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Hutton’s Vireos, Swainson’s Thrushes, and similar species.

H) Tanner Creek

Another mile brings you past open grassy knolls with thickets of ash, oak, willow, and many blackberry tangles. A parking area here across from some residences and pastures has many birds. In summer watch and listen for Rufous Hummingbirds, American Goldfinches, Evening Grosbeaks, Orange-crowned Warblers, Vaux’s Swifts, Red-tailed Hawks, Black-capped Chickadees, Cliff Swallows, European Starlings, White-crowned Sparrows, Purple Finches, Western Scrub-Jays, Steller’s Jays, American Crows, and Red-winged Blackbirds. Early in the morning, before the traffic noise echoes along the lake shore, listen for the subtle sound of Ruffed Grouse drumming in the woods.

Either from here, or 0.3 miles farther, walk out along the lakeshore. Mosquitoes can be quite aggressive at the mouth of Tanner Creek in early summer. Birds include loudly singing Yellow-breasted Chats, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Western Scrub-Jays, Mourning Doves, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, and others. Soras have been recorded here, and Yellow Warblers are possible in the willow clumps. The fall shorebird potential of Hagg Lake is unexplored. But the shallow shoreline here at the mouth of Tanner Creek would likely be the most productive part of the lake for these.

I) Tanner Creek Arm Overlook

Scoggins Valley Road hugs the east side of the Tanner Creek arm of Hagg Lake. There are several pull offs here to scope out this shallow north end of the lake. In summer, Yellow-breasted Chats may be heard easily. In winter, however, this is the area to scope out the ducks. Green-winged Teals, Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, Northern Pintails, Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, Lesser Scaups, and others are common. Eurasian Wigeons and the Eurasian form of Green-winged Teals have been reported here.

J) Nelson Road

Another mile brings you to a parking area at Nelson Road. From the parking area, listen and observe birds in the oak grove across the street and the conifer forest along the lakeshore. Residential areas nearby add open pasture lands. Typical summer birds include American Robins, Song Sparrows, Warbling Vireos, Northern Flickers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Wilson’s Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Yellowthroats, Black-capped Chickadees, Western Tanagers, and Bewick’s Wrens.

A trail leads down through a mixed woods with similar birds to area B. It follows a quiet little arm of the lake and comes out along extensive grassy fields leading down to the lakeshore. Some patches of blackberries, oaks, and hawthorns give slightly different birds, including California Quail, Bewick's Wrens, Spotted Towhees, Western Scrub-Jays, and similar species.

K) Recreation Area A West

The boat ramp here on the east side of the lake makes it quite busy and noisy for birding in summer. However, the quieter picnic area above the boat ramp is in mature Douglas-fir forest, offering some unique birds such as Red-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, and Western Tanagers. Swainson’s Thrushes are abundant. Yellow-rumped Warblers are abundant migrants.

L) Recreation Area A East

Back near the dam on the east side of the lake is an abandoned recreation area. The habitat here is mature Douglas-fir and maple. Park along the edge of Scoggins Valley Road. Walk past the gates on the paved roads, now growing up with brushy edges. Resident birds include Brown Creepers, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Winter Wrens, Hairy Woodpeckers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hutton’s Vireos, and Dark-eyed Juncos. In summer expect Western Tanagers, Western Wood-Pewees, American Robins, Cassin’s Vireos, Wilson’s Warblers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, House Wrens, MacGillivray’s Warblers, and Bushtits. Watch for Ospreys catching fish on the lake.


Numerous owls can be found around Hagg Lake throughout the year. Windless, dry nights in April are excellent for hearing these birds. The Stimson lumber mill below the dam operates all night, with hissing steam and owl-like beeping forklifts, so listening for owls at night is best done away from the south end of the lake. Northern Saw-whet Owls are often heard in conifer and mixed woods at the foot of Lee Road, near Stepien Road overlooking the lake, and near Nelson Road. Western Screech-Owls are most frequently heard in the oak groves and deciduous creek bottoms on the east side of the lake, especially near Nelson Road. Great Horned Owls can be heard at Sain Creek and Tanner Creek. Long-eared Owls are rare but regular. Most have been heard near Recreation Area A West, but also recently near Scoggins Creek Picnic Area and Sain Creek Picnic Area. Northern Pygmy-Owls are most-often detected at dawn and dusk near conifer woods in the Scoggins Creek arm of the lake.

Short tour

For a shorter 3-hour visit where should you bird? What are the "don't miss" locations?

Start at Elks Picnic area and briefly scope for waterbirds along the dam and north out in the deeper part of the lake. Drive 0.1 miles north to another overlook good for scoping waterbirds. In spring this is the area for Northern Rough-winged Swallows.

Park across from Lee Road and walk the foot of Lee Road up to the edge of the clear cut. Walk down to the lake shore and northward through the woods, as you have time. This is the prime forest and woodland birding on this route. So, in spring this stop should yield about 50 of the resident and neo-tropical migrants: Pileated and Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Hutton's Vireo, Steller's Jay, then Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Warbling and Cassin's Vireo, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, etc. There is another pullout opposite the far end of the clearcut where you should stop briefly and again look over the clearcut, and listen for California Quail, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, and watch for hawks.

In fall and winter, scope out waterbirds at the mouth of Sain Creek. Again, in fall and winter, walk out the fishing dock at Recreation Area C to scope the northern end of the lake. In summer these two areas are recreationally busy and birding here is usually unproductive.

Next is a brief stop to see if there are any American Dippers below the bridge at the Scoggins Creek Picnic Area. Band-tailed Pigeons are here spring through fall.

The marshy area at the mouth of Tanner Creek is worth a quick walk to see if there are any Yellow Warblers, Willow Flycatchers, or Virginia Rails. The woods here and across the street near the residences may have booming Ruffed Grouse in the early morning. Band-tailed Pigeons, White-crowned Sparrows, Bewick's Wrens, Spotted Towhees, Rufous Hummingbirds, and swallows are present all summer.

Pull over on the east side of the Tanner Creek arm of the lake and scope it out briefly for ducks, grebes, and loons.

If you have time, walk the trail down to the lake from the parking area opposite Nelson Road. Expect Hutton's Vireo, Brown Creeper, Wood Duck, Purple Finch.

One final stop is a walk in the mature woods at the abandoned Recreation Area A East. This is your last chance for woodpeckers and creepers, and may have House and Winter Wrens, Varied Thrush, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and another place to try for Cassin's Vireo. You can scope out the lake one last time, be sure to watch the ridge lines for hawks, Osprey, and Bald Eagles.

Map and more information provided by Washington County: Hagg Lake map