by Andy Stepniewski and Hal Opperman

revised by Scott Downes

The Blewett Pass Highway (US-97 from Ellensburg, joined by SR-970 from Cle Elum) provides easy access to the basins of two streams draining the south slope of the Wenatchee Mountains. Sasse Ridge divides the Cle Elum River drainage, to the west, from the Teanaway Basin. The Swauk Basin is the next one east, across Teanaway Ridge; Table Mountain separates it from the Naneum Basin still farther east. Lower elevations have birds of dry Ponderosa Pine forests and riparian habitats. Mixed-conifer forests in the middle elevations are known for their owls. Fall hawkwatching can be good on some of the higher ridges. Upper elevations have birds of subalpine forests and mountain meadows. An America the Beautiful pass or Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park in many areas listed in this section.

For the next seven miles, up to the intersection where it splits into West Fork Road (left) and North Fork Road (straight ahead), Teanaway Road goes through farmlands in the broad Teanaway River valley, flanked by areas of riparian growth and Ponderosa Pine forest. Although this is mostly private land, there are places along the way to pull off the road to bird. In spring and summer, look for Turkey Vulture, Osprey (nests along the river), Wilson’s Snipe, Common Nighthawk, Vaux’s Swift, Eastern Kingbird, swallows, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, Savannah and Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbird around buildings, open fields, brushy fencerows, and ditches and other wet spots. In the winter, look for Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings in the riparian areas and for Common Redpoll during years when the species invades the area. Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks hunt the area in fall and winter.

More than 50,000 acres of the north, west, and middle forks make up the new Teanaway Community Forest, bought by DNR in 2013 and managed cooperatively with WDFW and a community advisory committee. Public ownership will allow more access to lands than previous private ownership, but recreation passes such as Discover Pass may be required in the future within the forest.

To bird the West Fork Road, go west 0.6 mile and park near the intersection where Middle Fork Road turns off to the right. Bird on foot for a half-mile north along Middle Fork Road, then a half-mile west along West Fork Road to a gate on the left. Check the bridge over the Teanaway River for Harlequin Duck and American Dipper in spring and summer. Bird the campground on the south side of the road before the bridge for a good selection of Ponderosa Pine birds and riparian birds along the river. In an hour’s birding of this sampler of habitats you may find Ruffed Grouse, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Solitaire, Veery, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes, Cedar Waxwing, Nashville Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Purple and Cassin’s Finches, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak. West Fork road ends in 0.4 mile, but continues as a dirt track, not recommended during wet weather. A good selection of forest habitats occurs along this stretch, and Northern Pygmy-Owl is often encountered. The Middle Fork Road is good for Wild Turkeys and offers a similar mix of forest birds to that encountered on the West Fork Road. Pavement ends in 2.7 miles, but you can continue on the USFS road through habitat that supports all three nuthatch species and other common forest birds.

As you continue north on North Fork Road, the surrounding forests, especially where unlogged, used to be home to a few Spotted Owls, but they now appear to be gone, replaced by Barred Owls. FR-9738 branches off to the right in 5.5 miles and runs east up Jack Creek, flanked by extensive tracts of old-growth forest. Northern Goshawks are seen fairly regularly along this route. A prime area for Flammulated Owls is at 4.5 miles up FR-9738 on a sidehill to your left where Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine provide suitable habitat. For the next four miles, you pass through mature forest. Remember that calling for Spotted Owls, a federally Threatened and state Endangered species, is prohibited. After crossing Teanaway Ridge, FR-9738 descends the Blue Creek drainage, reaching US-97 in about 15 miles from North Fork Road.

North from the intersection with FR-9738, North Fork Road becomes FR-9737. There are several branches—be sure you stay on FR-9737. It is nearly 10 miles to the end of the road at the trailhead (elevation 4,200 feet) for Esmeralda Basin Trail 1394. This popular trail traverses forest, subalpine meadows, and the rugged high country of the Wenatchee Mountains—famous for its July wildflowers. Most of the birds can be seen in the first two miles in the lower, lusher part of the basin. An additional 1.5 miles on a rockier tread brings you to Fortune Creek Pass (elevation 6,000 feet), and views to the west of glacier-mantled Mounts Daniel and Hinman at the Cascade Crest. Birds that might be seen along this trail include Rufous Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Pacific Wren, American Dipper, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers, Chipping, Fox, and Lincoln’s Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Cassin’s Finch, and Red Crossbill. Pikas and Hoary Marmots are frequently encountered mammals.



Although fragmentation resulting from logging has affected some species, this forested basin retains its well-deserved reputation for owls— Flammulated, Great Horned, Northern Pygmy-, Barred, and Northern Saw-whet. March through early May is best, as calling by most species diminishes later in the season. Other bird species of mountain forests may be found here as well, including Northern Goshawk and Williamson’s Sapsucker.

To reach one good owling spot, go north three miles on US-97 from the SR-970 intersection. Turn right (east) onto Liberty Road (FR-9718), then right again in 0.7 mile onto FR-9726. Keep on the main road 0.8 mile to Pine Gulch Road (FR-121). Go left here for another 0.7 mile to a sharp bend where the road is blocked. The mature Grand Fir forest in this area is good for owls, including Barred and Northern Saw-whet Owls.

For another owling route, go back to Liberty Road (FR-9718) and turn right. In 0.7 mile, keep left onto FR-9712 as it goes up Lion Gulch. In three miles, keep left onto FR-9705. Beginning in one mile and thereafter for another mile, listen for Flammulated Owls as this road switchbacks up a south-facing slope grown to Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir. Another suitable spot for this species is at about three miles from FR-9712. Then the road begins a descent into north-facing ravines with moister forest—habitat for Northern Saw-whet Owls—and rejoins US-97 in about 2.5 miles.

Just north of Mineral Springs Campground on US-97 (3.6 miles north of Liberty Road and 0.8 mile south of FR-9705), FR-9738 turns off and follows Blue Creek to the west. At a fork in 2.6 miles, keep left onto FR-9702 (staying right with FR-9738 brings you to the North Fork Teanaway Road in about 12 miles). FR-9702 ends at a small parking lot in 4.7 miles. Take the graded, but steep, half-mile trail to the lookout tower on Red Top Mountain (elevation 5,361 feet). Hawkwatching can be good here from mid-August through October, especially on clear days with winds from the north or east. Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed Hawks are the most common species. Less common, but still regular, are Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk (late fall), Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, and Merlin. You may also see small parties of Turkey Vultures. The occasional Broad-winged Hawk may pass through these areas in fall migration. If you hit the wrong conditions for raptors, the view from Red Top northwest to the granitic ramparts of the Enchantments may be compensation enough.

Continue north on US-97 and in 2.9 miles turn left onto FR-7320 (aka FR-9715), a winding section of highway across the Wenatchee Mountains that was decommissioned when US-97 was rerouted. The open, forested slopes and meadows up to and around Old Blewett Pass (4.0 miles; elevation 4,064 feet) are known for owls (particularly Flammulated and Northern Saw-whet), Common Poorwill, Williamson’s Sapsucker, and Red Crossbill. Half a mile north on US-97 from the FR-7320 turnoff, Swauk Campground is in a birdy area with riparian, forested, and meadow habitats all close by. Look for Hammond’s Flycatcher, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, and Townsend’s Warblers, Pine Siskins, and wandering flocks of Evening Grosbeaks.

Climb 4.1 miles on US-97 to Blewett Pass (elevation 4,102 feet; called Swauk Pass on older maps), gateway to birding routes in the Okanogan (page 404). From here, in summer, one can take FR-9716 south 0.5 mile to the Discovery Trail, a graded, 2.7-mile interpretive loop through forest habitats in varying states of regeneration after logging. A good selection of montane forest birds should be encountered, including Rufous Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Olive-sided and Hammond’s Flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Gray Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers, Western Tanager, Cassin’s Finch, and Evening Grosbeak. Wildflowers are an added bonus. You can shave a mile off by bearing left just after marker 16. However, going the extra mile will reward you with the best views and the largest and oldest trees.



Continue on FR-9716 for 3.2 miles and turn left onto FR-9712, which follows a valley between the talus-strewn slopes of Diamond Head to the north and Table Mountain to the south. The western edge of Diamond Head is also a place to watch for migrating raptors, with a similar species composition to Red Top Mountain. Large, spring-green Western Larches (golden in fall) cling to the steep slopes. In 1.6 miles, at the junction with FR-3500 (FR-35 on some maps), keep straight on FR-9712. As the road climbs, subalpine tree species such as Subalpine Fir, Lodgepole Pine, and Engelmann Spruce become common. Williamson’s Sapsucker is common, especially in the Western Larch zones. Mountain species such as Gray Jay and Hermit Thrush are common.

A large fire swept through Table Mountain the fall of 2012. The fire burned most of the habitat on top of Table Mountain while creating a mosaic of burned and unburned vegetation farther down the slopes. The burned areas should produce various woodpecker species and other species favoring these burns such as Mountain Bluebird. Northern Goshawk and Northern Pygmy-Owl are often encountered in this area, though goshawk habitat was reduced by the 2012 fire.

Haney Meadow is reached in another 3.2 miles at about 5,500 feet elevation. Boreal Owl has been noted in this general area; the best time to look for this reclusive species is September and October. The 2012 fire burned most of the habitat around Haney Meadows, but small patches of unburned forest remain. The status of Boreal Owl after the fire remains uncertain. Back at FR-3500, you can continue on FR-9712 and retrace your route back to US-97 at Blewett Pass. Alternatively, turn left onto FR-3500 for a memorable drive across Table Mountain to Ellensburg. The roadbed is rough for the first four miles, to a four-way junction. Here the even rougher FR-124 turns off right to Lion Rock—0.8 mile; elevation 6,359 feet; on the west side of Table Mountain—another fall hawkwatching site, similar to Red Top Mountain.

Continue south on FR-3500. In 2.1 miles, the road (now paved) begins a spectacular, seven-mile descent to the Kittitas Valley, with numerous switchbacks and expansive views. The subalpine forest is soon left behind, replaced briefly with a mixed-conifer association, then Ponderosa Pines (fine wildflower show in late spring and early summer), and eventually riparian habitat along Reecer Creek Road (page 279). The patches of Mountain Big Sage host breeding Vesper Sparrows and the wet meadows breeding Lincoln’s Sparrows.

If you are traveling from Blewett Pass to Ellensburg via US-97—the conventional route—two slight variants enlarge the birding possibilities. The first is Swauk Prairie; from the junction of US-97 and SR-970, travel 0.6 mile on SR-970 and turn right onto Swauk Prairie Road. The birding here features raptors in the winter, including Rough-legged Hawk, and open-country birds in the spring and summer, including both Western and Mountain Bluebirds.




For the second diversion, return to the intersection of US-97 and SR-970, turn right onto US-97, proceed 1.7 miles, and and turn right onto Bettas Road. Western and Mountain Bluebirds are often numerous around these ranchlands. In 2.7 miles, turn right onto graveled Hayward Road (not plowed in winter), which crosses shrub-steppe habitat. Vesper Sparrows inhabit the grassier parts. In 2.8 miles from Bettas Road you reach SR-10 where you can turn east to Ellensburg or west to Cle Elum. Crossing SR-10 and continuing straight ahead onto N Thorp Highway will take you across the Yakima River and through the town of Thorp to I-90 Exit 101 in about five miles, with roadside wetland and riparian birding possibilities along the way.



About seven miles east of Cle Elum, Teanaway Road turns off to the northwest from SR-970, midway between its junctions with SR-10 and US-97.