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Oly's rainforest

Walking over bridges and boardwalks in Watershed Park

Take a walk in the woods along winding paths and over wooden bridges. Photo credit: Susan Melnyk

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Tucked away in a southeast neighborhood of Olympia lies Watershed Park, one of the area's most beautiful and private forest parks that's home to a winding trail and wooden bridges over Moxlie Creek.

Olympia's water supply came solely from the wells in Watershed Park from the late 1800s until the 1950s, and some of the old waterworks can still be found throughout the park. In 1955, the 153-acre forest was slated to be logged and sold to the highest bidder, but the people of Olympia banded together to fight the sale and protect the park. After taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court, the group won - and the area officially became a city park.

The views along the winding, well-groomed trail are as green as you can imagine, with huge fallen tree stumps, lush moss and ferns creating an emerald carpet, and tall towering trees to provide shade on a hot summer day. In the fall, the canopy provides some shelter from the early rains, making the park perfect any time of the year.

Several wooden bridges, boardwalks and a few moderate hills keep the 1.3-mile loop trail interesting, but strollers and bikes are best left at home on this pedestrian trail.  The path narrows and widens as it winds its way alongside and across the spring basin, which is one of the largest in the area. You'll be hard-pressed not to stop several times just to take in the beauty or snap some photos.

The soothing sounds of the creek vary from babbling brook to rushing stream, depending on the time of year and amount of rain we've recently had. Benches are located throughout the park at picturesque spots, so feel free to bring a snack or stop to take in the sights.

In early spring, when skies are gray and many of the trees are bare, huge yellow skunk cabbages start to emerge throughout Watershed Park.  Look for them in the wetlands along the trail; their stature and neon color make them hard to miss.

The plants' huge leaves, some up to three feet long, were historically used by Native Americans to line baskets and store food. Rarely found outside of wetlands, these unique plants are sure to brighten up a dreary early spring day.

Free parking and restrooms are available at the main park entrance, located at 2500 Henderson Blvd. SE in Olympia. The park takes about 40 minutes to traverse, so be sure to factor that in when planning your walk. There are no lights on the trail, and the park closes after dusk, so plan to finish your hike well before the sun sets.

Watershed Park has several PokeStops, which is a perfect way to convince the Pokemon Go player in your household to join you for a hike. Just make sure they stop to look up from time to time or they'll miss out on the gorgeous views.

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