Seattle has many pocket parks and natural areas where native species of floral and fauna make their home. The Union Bay Natural Area is one of these wonderful little spots that offers a near natural environment within easy reach of many city dwellers.
For the better part of the past century, this land was nothing more than a landfill, known by various names: the Ravenna Dump or the Montlake Landfill. The nature preserve itself started taking shape in 1966 when the dumps were closed. Over time, clean fill was brought in and the landfill was capped. Now it features meandering trails, park benches, several ponds, and is home to turtles, beavers, and a wide variety of waterfowl.
The roughly 50 acres of renamed natural space is bounded by sport fields to the west. The Center for Urban Horticulture sits to the north and east. This center has experienced growth of both native and invasive species. The preserve is now a large working laboratory with many active projects staked out. One of the lab's main objectives is to observe nature’s ability to cope with the decades of dumping it withstood.
During your visit, you'll have a choice of several main graveled paths, towards the west a Loop, and Wahkiakum Lane. Numerous other social paths run in and out of the brush and around the vernal and more permanent ponds. Shoveler, Grand, and Carp are the largest ponds here. On the eastern end on the Center's buildings is a newly built 'Yesler Swamp Trail'.
This area is a favorite for birders, with more than 200 species having been spotted here. In the late spring the ponds are often filled with squadrons of ducklings trailing around behind their mothers.
Parking may be a little difficult to access, since the University of Washington uses most available parking for its students and employees. The Center for Urban Horticulture has a decent amount of parking in the streets surrounding it.