Our Most Ribbiting Project

In 2013, a local resident of Sauvie Island left home on a rainy, unseasonably warm evening in January and found Harborton Road covered with frogs, many of which had already been squished. A distressing and heartbreaking sight. This population of Northern red-legged frogs clearly needed help in order to continue their instinctive journey to the Harborton Wetland a mile away to breed and deposit their egg masses.

The still waters of ponds, marshes or stream pools are essential for northern red-legged frog breeding habitat. PC: Burke Museum


Soon after a group of volunteers met with representatives of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, and Forest Park Conservancy to determine a plan of action. Biologists recommended catching the frogs by hand and transporting them on foot to the wetland.

That effort turned into the Harborton Frog Shuttle, an intensive all-volunteer effort to save a remnant population of Northern red-legged frogs in Forest Park (near Linnton in NW Portland) by shuttling them safely in buckets across highway 30, two local roads, and two sets of railroad tracks to the Harborton wetland where they breed. They do the same for the frogs during their return trip home.

Photo from Harborton Frog Shuttle team member, Ashley Smithers, of a frog intercepted at night in January, 2016.


To get there, these red-legged frogs have to cross Harborton Drive, Highway 30, two sets of railroad tracks and Marina Way. Unless volunteers are there to aide, hundreds of this population get squished mostly by car traffic on the busy roads. Frogs head down to the wetland from late December through February and then head back up through the end of March. The Harborton Wetland is the only wetland of its size left along a stretch of the river that used to have hundreds of ponds and wetlands that would have provided suitable breeding habitat for frogs.

Harborton Road is a quiet road, with just a few houses, and residents generally drive very slowly an