About the Refuge
15,000 years ago during the great ice age floods, huge chunks of ice and debris moved across the eastern Washington landscape scouring away the rich prairie soils, exposing the underlying basalt and creating a unique maze of channels and depressions.
Turnbull NWR encompasses approximately 18,217 acres of the Channeled Scablands. The ecosystem that predominates the Refuge is unique within the National Wildlife Refuge System and has characteristics that distinguish it from natural reserves worldwide. The powerful forces of volcanism, glaciation and the largest floods in geological history have combined to forge a distinct environment. The combination of basalt outcrops, flood eroded channels, and ponderosa pine forests infused in a diverse landscape of over 130 marshes, wetlands and lakes, create an environment of aesthetic beauty as well as high quality wildlife habitat. Refuge ecosystems represent an ecological transition between the dry, sagebrush dotted grasslands of the Columbia Basin and the timbered Selkirk and Bitteroot Mountain Ranges that rise up to the east. The more than 3,000 acres of wetlands on Turnbull NWR represent some of the last quality breeding habitat available in eastern Washington for waterfowl, which have experienced tremendous population declines across North America due to loss and degradation of breeding, migration, and wintering habitat.