Two small forest preserves show what Clark County farmland used to be

These sites are deemed natural areas, not neighborhood parks, but both are tucked into central Clark County neighborhoods on dead-end roads. If you’re in the mood for some deep-forest exploration — and sheer awe — without having to travel far or hike hard, Salmon-Morgan and Lauretta Norene are right next door.

two creeks

On a sunny spring morning, the Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area gleams with sunlight filtering down through a thick, complicated, mossy canopy. A hiker’s sense of surprise and majesty might be tempered only slightly by the need to keep an eye on the occasionally gloppy path.

To reach this 81-acre island of nearly raw nature, visitors must nose their way along the quiet streets of an upscale neighborhood adjacent to the Cedars on Salmon Creek Golf Course (between Hockinson and Battle Ground). Find your way to Northeast 152nd Avenue and drive north to the T intersection. Take a right on Northeast 181st Street, which bends right, then left on 159th Avenue, right on 183rd Street and left on dead-end 161st Avenue.

Be mindful that you’re surrounded by private property and pedestrians as you drive in and park. There’s an alternate entry farther west on 183rd Street, but 161st Avenue offers a proper welcome with a pair of informational kiosks and maps, one of which provides a guide to the Salmon-Morgan’s grandest, most noteworthy trees and even supplies their trunk diameters in inches .

Western red cedars reign supreme here, and several trunks have diameters in the 50-plus-inch range — well over 4 feet thick. The natural area also encompasses grand and Douglas firs, Western hemlocks, Pacific yews and, according to one informational panel, a single Oregon white oak whose presence here is “testament to the species’ ability to thrive” in spots where it’s usually crowded out by taller, faster growing trees. (White oaks are more often found where conditions are tougher overall, whether much drier or much wetter.) Red alder trees cluster in the northwest corner of the site.