FernOur family settled in Federal Way in the Spring of 2002. The city’s location brought great advantage for us to explore Seattle and the South King County area. As a mother of three children, I often look for attractions in the area. Luckily, I found this great park right in our neighborhood. West Hylebos Wetlands Park is one of the last remaining marsh areas that have not been encroached upon by development. It is a stunning place where you can take your family, friends, or even just go yourself. You will be totally refreshed as you stroll along a boardwalk trail that runs in a quarter-mile loop through the park. This access leads you to 110 acres of wetlands. Within the park you can also appreciate over 50 species of plants, 27 moss, 30 lichens, 30 fungi and six liverworts.

One evening last summer, our family visited the park. As we entered the West Hylebos we could see two historical buildings: the Denny and Barker cabins. Denny built the larger one, and originally used it as a real estate office. The smaller Barker cabin, was an actual home that the family used on the homestead site. The Historical Society of Federal Way is restoring both of these structures. As we walked around we imagined what type of lives the inhabitants experienced. It is possible to peer inside while the restoration work is underway.

Breathing in good oxygen was a refreshing treat, as we broke away, even if ever so briefly, from our busy city lives. What a treasure in the city! I was quite upset all these years we did not know about the Hylebos. It is worth visiting, whether you live south or north. The park is full of species of birds, and so is excellent for bird watching. Plan to pack binoculars to see all those birds, including spotted towhees, red-wing blackbirds, song sparrows, black-capped chickadees, several species of warblers, nuthatches, brown creepers, varied and swaninson’s thrushes, violet-green, barn swallows, downy, pileated woodpeckers, and great blue and green herons. Many different amphibians are found in the Hylebos, as well.

As you walk the boardwalk you will notice the four distinctive wetlands: scrub/shrub, forested, emergent and open wetlands. Many of the plants reminded me of the plants of everglades in Miami, Florida. There are also ancient Sitka spruce trees that thrive in the boggy soils of wetlands. One such spruce that can be viewed from the boardwalk began its life back when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock!

Whether you have a couple of hours to spare, or just happen to be in the Federal Way area, and need a 30-minute nature break, this park, which offers free entry and parking, is a welcome respite from our ever-hectic lives! To get there, take I-5 exit 142-B, on the south side of Federal Way, and head west on S. 348th St. Find directions here.