Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

The longer name is The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is the perfect outdoor getaway. Vast trails go through the estuary, providing visitors with ample opportunities to view wildlife and enjoy the serenity of Washington nature. Many visitors find that wildlife is more abundant during high tide. If you are an animal enthusiast, you may want to plan your visit accordingly.

What is an Estuary?

This piece of land is the bridge between the open ocean and land. Rivers and streams course through this area as fresh water flows to the open ocean and mixes with saltwater. This kind of habitat is ideal for migratory birds as well as other wildlife. Many mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles have made their home in the Nisqually Refuge. There is also a variety of endangered species in the area.

Present Wildlife

Displaying beautiful and unique plumage coloration, the wooden duck can be spotted during the summer. Iconic bald eagles can also be observed soaring through the Refuge or perched in a nest. If you ever see a large flock of seabirds suddenly take flight, keep your eyes peeled for a Peregrine Falcon. Being one of the fastest birds in the world, it’ll quickly approach prey, such as other birds, sometimes diving from great heights.

If you happen to be at the Refuge during the winter months, you may be lucky enough to see a Great Horned Owl. They are particularly exciting to sight as owletes are hatching. If you are visiting the Refuge in February and March, bring a pair of binoculars and scan tree hallows for fuzzy owlet heads making a tentative appearance.

Furry Friends

In addition to birds a variety of mammals live in the refuge. Though hard to spot since they are nocturnal, beavers create dams and build their homes throughout the area. Otters can also be seen popping above the surface after a dive that could have been as deep as 60 feet! Black-tail deer and coyotes have also been spotted in the Refuge.

There are many other amphibians and endangered species that may be present during your visit. Make sure to scan the water for the endangered Coho Salmon and you may see it’s sleek, silver scales catch the light!


The Nisqually Refuge estuary was restored in 2009 by the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Previously a dairy farm, barn structures remain on the Refuge. Estuaries are nutrient rich areas, providing vast grasslands for cattle and rich soil for planting. The farm was established in 1904, went bankrupt and eventually closed in 2001.

Billy Frank Jr. played an important role in the Nisqually Tribe. He was an activist for Native American water rights, serving as chairman for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for over 30 years. His awards and honors are extensive, including the Washington State Medal of Merit.

Looking for More Outdoor Destinations?

Check out our other blog posts! The Cheney Stadium is a minor league baseball stadium in Tacoma that can make for a fun day outing!

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