Twin Barns Loop Trail
This level, mile-long boardwalk passes through woodlands, grasslands, and freshwater marshes, past the Twin Barns and an observation platform, ending back where it starts at the Visitor Center. There are three spur trails off the main trail: the Riparian Forest Overlook, the Nisqually River Overlook, and the Twin Barns Observation Platform.
To Riparian Forest Overlook
A short trail to an observation deck branches off the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. It curves through a surge plain, where tidal changes cause the Nisqually River to spill into a wooded habitat.
To Nisqually River Overlook
A little under half of a mile around the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, the boardwalk extends for another 150 yards to the river. Here there is an observation deck with a mounted spotting scope for wildlife viewing along the Nisqually River.
The Twin Barns Observation Platform
About half of a mile around the west side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, a boardwalk spur to the left goes to the Twin Barns Observation Platform. This elevated platform provides excellent views of the freshwater wetlands and the tidal estuary outside the dike. Mounted spotting scopes can assist with viewing wildlife.
Nisqually Estuary Trail and Boardwalk
This trail starts just prior to the Nisqually River Overlook and is on top of an earthen dike. The salt water tidal estuary is to the north of the trail and freshwater wetlands are to the south. The first 1/2 mile is on top of an earthen dike, the rest is boardwalk. At the beginning of the boardwalk, there is a veiwing tower with great views into freshwater wetlands and the salt marsh. There is a mounted spotting scope on the tower. Futhur along the boardwalk is the Shannon Slough Viewing Blind, the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform, and the boardwalk terminates at the Puget Sound Viewing Platform. The trail is flat and easy walking. NOTE: the last 700 feet of the boardwalk is closed seasonally from early October through late January during the waterfowl hunting season.
Accessiblity for this trail: The first half mile is on the Twin Barns Loop Trail which is a boardwalk. The next half mile is on an earthen dike that is topped with gravel. It is flat and has a hard surfuce, but the gravel can be hard to push wheels through. Many do it, but it is a bit challenging! Once you get to the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, the going gets much easier. The surface is flat and smooth! There are several place along the boardwalk where the railing is lower for better viewing.
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The reclusive American Bittern is a master of disguise. When it feels threatened, it stretches its neck and all but disappears among the reeds.