Frequently Asked Questions

1) Can I rent your Visitor Center auditorium for a meeting?
Our Visitor Center Auditorium cannot be reserved for private meetings and presentations. Requests for use of the auditorium by outside organizations are frequent. In the interest of keeping the Visitor Center facilities available for public use directly related to National Wildlife Refuge objectives, we have to limit use of the auditorium by outside parties.

2) Can I use a audio-playback device to lure bids?
Human activities on a refuge must be compatible with the primary wildlife purposes of each Refuge. The use of playback tapes is an issue of growing concern as the use of technology for birding and wildlife photography continues to increase and evolve. Some birders will use bird calls in the field to verify a call they have heard. They may play the call quietly so only they are able to hear it or use headphones, which minimize any potential impact on birds in the wild. However, regarding the use of playback tapes to entice or elicit a response from birds in the wild, there are two Refuge regulations that apply here; 50 CFR 27.51 prohibits disturbing and attempting to disturb wildlife on any national wildlife refuge; in addition, 50 CFR 27.72 prohibits “the operation or use of audio devices including radios, recording and playback devices, as to cause unreasonable disturbance to others in the vicinity.” Use of audio devices to lure birds would violate at least one if not both of these regulations. We discourage the use of playback tapes on Nisqually NWR for the purpose of getting birds to respond since it can be disturbing to wildlife and other visitors and would be difficult if not impossible to avoid violating Refuge regulations in doing so.

3) Are dogs allowed on the Refuge?
We do not allow dogs anywhere on the Refuge (this includes the whole Refuge - entrance road, parking lot, trails, etc.). National wildlife refuges are the only set of federal lands set aside expressly for fish and wildlife above all other purposes. The prohibition of pets including dogs is to reduce disturbance to wildlife and habitat. There are studies that have been done that show that wildlife in the vicinity of trails, even where dogs are leashed, are negatively affected, causing lower wildlife abundance along the trail. It may be because wildlife instinctively look at dogs as predators, whether they are leashed or not.

4) Are the trails wheelchair accessible all the way out to the new Estuary Boardwalk Trail?
Regarding wheelchair access to the new boardwalk, it is fully accessible, but maybe the following info would be helpful:
In order to reach the new Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, you must first travel 1/2 mile on the older Nisqually Twin Barns Loop Boardwalk Trail. This trail is fully accessible - no barriers, though I have heard some comments that the unevenness of the wood boards that make up the deck make for a bumpy ride by wheelchair. As an option, there is a gravel service road that parallels the older boardwalk leading out towards the Twin Barns. That is a hard, compacted surface, some bumpiness or potholes, but it is usable. That leads up onto 1/2 mile of graveled dike that makes up the first part of the Nisqually Estuary Trail. The dike is very level and compacted, and it does meet accessibility standards. 

That 1/2 mile of boardwalk (or service road) and 1/2 mile of new dike trail then brings you to the head of the new Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. The Trail is a wonderful, level surface (no bumpiness like the older boardwalk). It is 1 mile long and winds its way into the Nisqually estuary. If you decide to come out, be aware that round trip, it is a 4 mile distance from the visitor center. The last restrooms are the sanikans (these are handicapped accessible) out by the Twin Barns. Both boardwalks are 8 feet wide, so they are roomy. Coming out during any tide is fascinating, you might want to check tides as higher tides can be quite unique, as then you are traveling the boardwalk over water!

5) Can I have my wedding at the Refuge?
Unfortunately, we do not have any areas that can be used for a wedding. Nisqually NWR is a national wildlife refuge, one of a special set of federal lands set aside for fish and wildlife first as a primary purpose. We do allow certain wildlife dependent recreation like wildlife observation, interpretation, and environmental education in the headquarters area, but even those are limited in order to provide the needed protection and conservation of wildlife and habitats. We are not able to also support other kinds of uses and still meet our primary stewardship and conservation mission.

6) Is there a good place to go fishing on the Refuge?
Unfortunately, we do not have any bank fishing on the Refuge. Large portions of Refuge waters are open to boat fishing and most boaters launch from the Luhr Beach boat access at the northwest corner of the Nisqually delta area. We have future plans to develop trail and bank fishing access on the east side of the Nisqually River, but currently the area you see is closed to the public. The closest bank fishing area on the Nisqually River is the 6th Street access off of old Pacific Highway, on the other side of I-5, managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I have seen fly fishermen fishing in that area.

7) Can I bring my bike to the Refuge?
You may ride your bike to the Refuge and park it at a bike rack near the Visitor Center, but bikes are not allowed on any of our trails.

8) Where is the picnic area?
The Refuge's primary function is to protect wildlife, so there is not an area explicitly created for picnicking, though some tables have been set up near the Twin Barns which is about a half mile from the parking area. There is no vehicle access to the Twin Barns, so it would be necessary for you to carry whatever amenities you might need. Another option closer to the parking area would be the open pavilion at the Environmental Education Center, which is at the south end of our general parking lot. School groups often use this area of picnicking and it seems to work well.

Please note that we have been having an ongoing problems with aggressive squirrel behavior at the Refuge. This is because visitors who mistake the squirrel for tame animals often feed them. Rather than creating a friendly, tame creature, feeding squirrels actually only trains the squirrels to see human beings as a food source, which in a wild animal can be very dangerous. Consequently we have had a number of squirrel attacks. If you picnic here, please be sure to pick up all traces of food (crumbs and wrappers) before you leave, and also be sure that all members of your party are aware that feeding squirrels is strictly prohibited.