The Black River Unit was established in 1996 and is managed as part of Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. It encompasses a large mosaic of wetland and riparian habitats and surrounding uplands along the Black River. The purpose of the Unit is to protect biological diversity, enhance and manage unique wetland and riparian ecosystems for the benefit of anadromous salmonid production and rearing, migratory and resident waterfowl, migratory neotropical birds, wading birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife.The authorized boundary of the Black River Unit encompasses approximately 3,800 acres. Land acquisition is still in progress; currently, the USFWS owns and manages approximately 1,000 acres. See the Black River Unit map for more details.The Black River is a tributary of the Chehalis River, the second largest watershed in Washington. The Unit's wetland habitats make up one of the largest, relatively undisturbed freshwater wetland systems remaining in all of Puget Sound. The river's diverse habitats include prairie oak woodlands, sphagnum bogs, wet prairies, alder bottoms and wetland conifer forests. The Unit contains spawning and rearing habitat and migration corridors for native trouts and salmons. At least 150 species of migratory birds, including waterfowl and neotropical songbirds, use the wetland and riparian habitats. It is also one of only a few places where the Oregon spotted frog is known to occur in Washington. The Oregon spotted frog is a State listed endangered species and Federally Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Black River Unit is located in Thurston County, 5 miles southwest of Olympia and 3 miles southwest of Tumwater.
Land areas within the Black River Unit are currently closed to public access. The river itself is open to the public by boat only. Waterfowl hunting is allowed on Black River by boat, as well, but hunters must not walk on land anywhere in the Refuge. Boat launch areas are located at 110th and 123rd Streets. See the Black River Unit map for boat launch locations.
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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.