On the shores of Willapa Bay, 11,000 acres stretch out in mudflats, sand dunes, freshwater marshland and rain-drenched forest. Stands of old growth red cedar and hemlock reign over the landscape where shorebirds dart and Roosevelt elk make their home.
A veritable birding paradise, red-tailed hawks, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, marsh wrens and great blue herons inhabit the varied ecosystems.
The refuge was established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect migrating birds and their habitats when many estuaries were being threatened. Over 200 bird species now rest, nest and winter here. This precious natural area has been protected for by the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, an organization that turns 20 years old this year.
The refuge shelters a number of threatened and endangered species. The organization works to restore habitat for these animals while coping with the threat of invasive species.
The group also maintains recreational areas for wildlife observation fishing, clamming and crabbing. Hiking trails are available for exploration at Leadbetter Point, and camping in five primitive campgrounds is accessible by boat access.
The refuge administers a Presidential Proclamation that closes a portion of the Bay to waterfowl hunting.
The organization supports the refuge’s mission “to restore, enhance, protect and conserve the wildlife and its environment while providing educational opportunities, increasing public awareness, involvement, appreciation, and enjoyment of the refuge.”
Refuge staff use habitat management techniques to maintain, recover, and enhance the landscape. Mowing, tilling, seeding and control of the water levels are some of the techniques used to aid the health of native plants.
Birdwatchers in the refuge can look for ducks, mergansers, shorebirds and gulls on the mudflats along the mouth of the Naselle River as it enters Willapa Bay. In the forest, you can listen for kinglets, chickadees, thrushes and woodpeckers.
Thanks to visionary community leaders and volunteers and board members, the conservation and restoration programs of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge continue, preserving this rich landscape for future generations.