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Willamette Valley NWR Complex Reopens Winter Sanctuary Areas

Cedar WaxwingsPublic access into winter sanctuary portions of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges will be reopened April 1st. These areas are managed as winter sanctuaries for geese and other waterfowl in order to replenish their energy reserves required for nesting and migrating. Some of these waterfowl are now moving on to their nesting grounds in Alaska and making room for all of our spring migrants and summertime nesting residents. This is a great time to come visit your local refuges whether you are interested in wildlife, plant life or even history.

 

Baskett Slough NWR

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, which has had its sanctuary portions closed since October 1st, will be reopening several trails to provide visitors with more access to marshlands in the refuge interior. Visiting hours are sunrise to sunset. To locate Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, visitors should travel west on State Highway 22 from Salem and watch for the wildlife viewing area signs, which are located on the north side of the highway at mile post 14.

In addition to the wildlife viewing kiosk adjacent to State Highway 22 and the year-round trails, Baskett Slough will be opening an inter-tie trail connecting the year-round Baskett Butte Loop trail with the seasonal Morgan Lake trail. This will provide hikers with excellent views of the north side of the refuge and ample opportunities for viewing red-winged blackbirds and marsh wrens along the cattail-spotted banks. Restrooms and an informational kiosk are located at the trailhead off Coville Road.

Ankeny NWR

Many new hiking and viewing opportunities will also be opening up at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge on April 1st. The Refuge hours are from sunrise to sunset. Access may be found by traveling 10 miles north from Albany or 12 miles south from Salem on Interstate 5. Take exit 243, Ankeny Hill Road, and drive 1/4 mile west to an intersection. Refuge trails and overlooks may be found along Buena Vista Road, Ankeny Hill Road, and Wintel Road. Watch for the brown Wildlife Viewing Area signs. Restrooms are available at the year-round overlook and viewing area located on the south side of Ankeny Hill Road.

Ankeny offers multiple easy-access boardwalks (including Rail Trail and the Pintail and Egret Marsh Boardwalk) and viewing kiosks. These may be found along Buena Vista and Wintel Roads and are great for families. The 2,500 foot boardwalk and wildlife observation blind available at the Rail Trail hiking path and boardwalk passes through an Oregon ash dominated forested wetland. Extensions to this trail will be open on April 1st, including options of shady forested habitats (great for the summertime) or loops along a Refuge dike which walks you around Dunlin and South Ponds. These loops provide hikers with excellent shorebird and great egret viewing opportunities and offer sights of raptors soaring over the fields. 

William L. Finley NWR

Closed since November 1st, William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge will also be opening the interior winter sanctuaries to the public on April 1st. Our largest refuge in the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Finley provides a wide variety of recreational activities including a wildlife viewing auto-tour route; 10 different hiking trails and boardwalks; and opportunities for viewing some of the oldest historic buildings in Benton County. Finley is located approximately 9 miles south of Corvallis off State Highway 99W. Brown Refuge signs are visible prior to the turn onto Finley Refuge Road.

The variety of habitat types in this 5,300 acre refuge supports a wide range of animals and native plants including Roosevelt elk, bobcats, and numerous species of songbirds and waterfowl. The various hiking trails at Finley provide access for beginners as well as hiking enthusiasts. The Homer Campbell Memorial Boardwalk is an accessible trail where you can spot nesting wood ducks, beaver dams, and a variety of bird species at the observation blind which ends the trail at Cabell Marsh. Woodpecker Loop Trail is also popular for families, and is an excellent trail for spotting songbirds and woodpeckers. More experienced hikers can take advantage of the areas opening this spring, providing access to interior trails along Beaver and Cattail ponds, as well as up to the top of Pigeon Butte, which allows for excellent views of the Willamette Valley. 

History enthusiasts will also find William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge of special interest. Historical homes and barns can be found at various locations on the Refuge, so make sure to pick up informational pamphlets at the Refuge headquarters and go on a self-guided tour of the refuge historic structures.

Visitors can stop in at the Refuge headquarters for information, directions, and trail descriptions all week long. Our volunteer-run Wild Goose Nature Store, located in the Refuge headquarters building, is open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Drop in to friendly and helpful faces and browse the variety of wildlife-related merchandise including anything from finger puppets to field guides. Restrooms and water fountains are available at the Refuge headquarters, as well as at Turtle Flats Restroom off of Finley Refuge Road. Additional restroom facilities can be found at the Woodpecker Loop and McFadden’s Marsh trailheads. 

Snag Boat Bend Unit

The Snag Boat Bend Unit, located off Peoria Road, 1 mile south of Peoria, is open year-round. An observation blind on Lake Creek Trail overlooks the Willamette River backwaters and provides opportunities for visitors to enjoy nature throughout the year. Songbirds, raptors and waterfowl may be heard or seen along the trail. As floodwaters recede, access to the Turtle Loop Trail will become available, allowing viewers more chances to see shorebirds poking along in the mudflats, or osprey soaring over the river. The entrance to the short boardwalk leading from the parking area remains damaged due to high water this winter. We expect to have this repaired in the near future.

 

The three Willamette Valley Refuges were created in the mid 1960′s to provide habitat for the dusky Canada goose and to preserve and restore vanishing native habitats for a host of other wildlife and plant species. The Refuges support a diverse assemblage of rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants and animals. Each Refuge is intensively managed to meet the needs of many species, especially those confined to small or limited ranges. These Refuges offer the public a unique opportunity to view Oregon’s natural heritage up close. An overall management goal of the Willamette Valley Refuges is to provide high quality opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education. 

Visitors should remember Refuges are not zoos; wildlife here roam free in their natural habitats. So expect to see the wonder of nature in all its glory! If you are not familiar with local wildlife, enhance your experience by bringing along a field guide, binoculars and a canteen of water.  

For more information please contact the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex Headquarters at (541) 757-7236. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm. 

 

Page Photo Credits — Cedar Waxwings, George Gentry/USFWS
Last Updated: Apr 01, 2014
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