A photoblind is available for use at the Salmon Creek Unit. For rules and reservation information:
When and where to find wildlife
Dawn and dusk are generally the best times to observe wildlife. However, tide levels also have great influence on wildlife behavior and movements around estuaries. The best times around the South Bay are generally within 1–2 hours either side of high tide.
Peak season for most species of waterbirds and raptors is November through April. Aleutian cackling geese, Pacific brant and migratory shorebird populations peak from March to late April. Summer visitors can see many terns, cormorants, and pelicans, as well as resident egrets, herons, and migratory songbirds such as warblers, sparrows, and swallows. For more animals through the season see Nature's Calendar. A list of Humboldt Bay Watchable Wildlife (344K pdf) is available.
Most waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors can be found on the Hookton Slough and Salmon Creek Units. Each has a walking trail (see refuge map).
Landscape photography opportunities
The Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes offer stunning landscapes for photographers. Dunes are an iconic photography subject, and here the drama of dunes overtaking forest is a popular subject for photographers. Spectacular wildflower displays are present in summer months (June to August). Lighting is best in the late afternoon hours.
Quick movements and noise scare away most wildlife. You will see more if you are quiet and listen. Look for tracks, nests, and other signs that can tell you interesting stories, then leave this evidence undisturbed for others. Please stay on trails to reduce disturbance to wildlife.
Do not approach or disturb nesting birds, and leave all young animals alone. Even though you may think they are abandoned, a parent is likely close by waiting for you to leave. Do NOT feed wildlife. It disrupts their digestive systems and compromises their natural instinct for survival.
What to bring
Binoculars and scopes, field guides, insect repellent, water, and rain gear are recommended. Discovery Packs, containing field guides and binoculars, are available for loan at the Visitor Center.
Watchable Wildlife Brochure (344K pdf)