Discover the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway

Activities: 

Wild in the City

An excerpt from the book "Wild in the City - Exploring The Intertwine."

Called the green jewel in the heart of Vancouver, Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail truly is an amazing swath of green infrastructure. With a series of apved, shared use trails, it continues for nearly eight miles past some of the best wild areas in Vancouver — from wetlands to heavy forest to open grassland. The location, right in the middle of the city, makes it all easily accessible from a number of different trailheads and many neighborhoods, either by foot or bicycle. 

Those new to Burnt Bridge Creek are amazed by the natural riches so close to the city. If you're approaching for the first time, park at the west end trailhead along Bernie Road where it meets Fruit Valley Road. The sidewalk loops around just past the highway intersection to the signed official start of the old Discovery Trail — which is a larger trail that the Burnt Bridge Trail is a part of. Those on foot can take a shortcut — a set of very steel cement stairs going directly from the lot down to the trail.

The wetlands in Stewart Glen provide excellent waterfowl habitat, and you may see lesser scaup, Canada geese, and mallards dabbling for aquatic plants. Hike the trail east along the south side of the creek and enjoy a forest that includes Douglas fir, western redcedar, big-leaf maples, salal, and vine maple. Scan the trees for robins, Bewick's and Pacific wrens, northern flickers, cedar waxwings, and spotted towhees. Several informal trails access the greenway from the northwest neighborhood, and you will often meet residents walking or biking along the trail. Continue east to where the trail meets Hazel Dell Avenue. Walk south along Hazel Dell a few hundred feet and pick up the trail again on your left.

Now you access a bike- and pedestrian-only trail, which crosses over Interstate 5 on Leverich Parkway and into Leverich Park. The Ellen Davis Trail takes off to the left just before entering Leverich Park, which features a disc golf course and trails along both sides of Burnt Bridge Creek. Leverich has plenty of parking and makes a great trailhead east or west. Continue east along the trail through the park, crossing NE 15th Avenue and along NE 41st Circle and NE 18th Court to Arnold Park, an undeveloped nature park. The paved trail picks up again at the end of NE 41st Circle and heads under Bonneville Power Administration power lines. You can often see raptors hunting rodents in the open meadows here. Cross Saint Johns Boulevard at the signal and pick up the trail on the other side.

Continue upstream as the trail crosses under State Route 500 and into Burnt Bridge Canyon. The creek has carved a canyon perhaps seventy-five feet deep through this area, and the steep banks have prevented development. You will come upon the majestic sight of mature western redcedars towering over a forest floor filled with ferns. Listen for belted kingfishers as they patrol the creek looking for a snack, or search the undergrowth for salamanders during the spring. Linger in the forest for a while, and you will forget you're in the middle of the city.

As you come up out of the canyon, cross busy Fourth Plain Boulevard at the signal and continue southeast along the trail under the power lines to 18th Street. Once you cross 18th, the trail turns and follows the creek east across a broad floodplain punctuated by deciduous trees.

At Devine Road, a trailhead includes a parking area and restroom. This is the newest section of the trail and features a wide concrete path with plenty of space for the many bikers and walkers who use it daily. The floodplain is also unusually wide and provides habitat for beavers, coyotes, deer, and a wide variety of birds. Raptors often circle overhead looking for a meal. About a half mile from Devine, the trail forks, with the left fork widening through a newly restored wetland habitat and ponds that also manage water from the mall and car dealers to the north.

There is a signal that will allow you to cross Andresen Road safely. On the other side of Andresen, you will find more stormwater and habitat ponds that hos a variety of wildlife. The trail follows the creek east through scrubby vegetation such a s spirea and thimbleberry and crosses under NE 86th Avenue. Note the many seeps that feed the creek from the hillside. The trail turns north and crosses a bridge over Burton Channel, which recently had an upstream culvert removed and habitat enhancement done.

Though the trail ends a Burton Road, the city continues to acquire property upstream to protect Burnt Bridge Creek and eventually extend the greenway. Many thousands of trees have been planted to provide a lush canopy in the area and wetland enhancements are re-establishing the creek's natural water flow, The dream of a vibrant green infrastructure is alive and well in the heart of Vancouver.

Photo: 
The Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway from above.
Signage and maps
The trail in winter.
The trail in summer.

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