Established in 1969 as mitigation for habitat lost through flooding caused by the construction of the John Day Dam on the Columbia River, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is a mecca for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The refuge is a varied mix of open water, sloughs, shallow marsh, seasonal wetlands, cropland, islands, and shrub-steppe upland habitats. It is divided into six units—two in Oregon, three in Washington, and one in the middle of the Columbia River. The scarcity of wetlands and other natural habitats in this area make Umatilla Refuge vital to migrating waterfowl, bald eagles, colonial nesting birds, and other migratory and resident wildlife. It is strategically located within the Pacific Flyway to provide Arctic nesting geese and ducks a wintering site and a resting stopover.