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Originally published Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 7:05 PM

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Walkabout

Walk a pocket of wild wetland not far from Ikea

Cathy McDonald visits a quiet pocket of wetland among the busy highways of Renton at Springbrook Trail Boardwalk.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Location: Springbrook Trail Boardwalk, Renton

Length: Quarter-mile-long boardwalk, with about a half-mile of paved trail extending to the south.

Level of difficulty: Level to gentle, accessible paved path and boardwalk.

Setting: Just a few minutes' drive north of Ikea is a patchwork of nearly 130 acres of wetlands that make up some of the last remaining undeveloped land in the lower Green River Valley. Little 12-mile-long Springbrook Creek flows here, one of the few remaining tributaries of the Lower Green River, which was channelized before 1940 for drainage and to reduce flooding. This is the largest wetland mitigation site in the central Puget Sound area — a natural area "savings account" held in public ownership to compensate for the environmental impact caused by the construction of public projects.

A long boardwalk extends far into the marsh, with occasional interpretive signs. The paved Springbrook Trail continues south of the boardwalk; in the future, the trail will connect to several regional trails including the Interurban Trail (Algona to Tukwila) and the Green River Trail (Auburn to south Seattle).

Highlights: For much of my visit along the boardwalk, it was just me and a lush world of fresh, unfurling spring growth. Distant traffic from Interstate 405 whooshed lightly in the background. Decaying plant matter began its millions-of-years-long journey toward becoming coal as it rotted in the wetlands, generating huge slime-coated bubbles in the marsh. The dense growth of willows and other native plants hid most of the animals; baby mallards played in open water while their parents kept a suspicious eye on me, and a woodpecker rat-a-tatted somewhere to the east. Audubon volunteers Arn and Kathy Slettebak ambled into view along the boardwalk, up since 4:30 that morning leading a bird walk at Discovery Park. Soon, with some "psh-psh-psh" noises, Kathy drew a curious warbler, and soon we had spotted three different kinds — yellow, yellow-rumped Audubon, and orange-crowned.

Facilities: None.

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect; walk bikes on boardwalk; do not feed the waterfowl.

Directions: From I-405 in Renton, take Exit 2A (heading south from Bellevue) (or 2B heading east), and go north one block on Rainier Avenue South. Turn left on South Grady Way, turn left on Lind Avenue Southwest, and turn right on Southwest 27th Street. In about 100 yards, pass the northern entrance to the boardwalk on the left and park on the street on the right.

Bus: Metro Transit routes 153, 161 and 247 stop on Lind Avenue near the northern end of the boardwalk. More info: 206-553-3000 or metro.kingcounty.gov.

For more information: 425-430-6600 or rentonwa.gov/living.

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a geologist by training, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com

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