Did you know that, just an hour drive south of Seattle there is a National Wildlife Refuge? It is one of my favorite places to visit all year round.
Upon entering the refuge you are first greeted with a duck pond.
The trail starts at the visitor center. From here a mile-long loop trail takes you along an old boardwalk above the wetlands. It is mostly frozen this time of the year. But if you pay attention, you can hear the sound of a Woodpecker.
See a Harrier Hawk alight on a branch
Or feel the presence of this little fella fluttering about.
Not to mention that this is also the area where the Great Horned Owls nest.
At the edge of the woods, you will see two barns. Look up, you may find Bald Eagles perched high atop a tree.
There are four spur trails off the main trail: the Riparian Forest Overlook, the Nisqually River Overlook, the Twin Barns Observation Platform, and most importantly, the Estuary Trail is where you want to go. It offers fantastic views of the Olympics
and Mt. Rainier
The salt water tidal estuary lies to the north of the trail and freshwater wetlands to the south.
The first half mile is on top of an earthen dike where you may spot these American Coots foraging for food
See Mallards taking off
Or come up close and personal with this beautiful Blue Heron, as she flies in and lands gracefully right next to you
The remaining mile is an elevated boardwalk with viewing tower overlooking freshwater wetlands and the salt marsh.
Here, you will find Sandpipers.
When they takes flight, it is an amazing sight.
Or Ring-billed Gulls and Green-winged Teals looking for food in the mudflats during a low tide.
The refuge closes at sunset. So plan enough time to get to the entrance gate before it is locked for the evening.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is on the southern end of Puget Sound between Olympia and Fort Lewis. Take Exit 114 from I-5 and follow the signs to the refuge. The refuge is open daily during daylight hours. The daily entrance fee is $3 (bring cash).
Below is a map of the hiking trails in the refuge. To see what wildlife is in season, click here.
Parts of this trail will have an annual seasonal closure from October to January for waterfowl hunting season. And although Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is not open to hunting, waterfowl hunting does occur on Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife land immediately adjacent to the trail.