Watching Wildlife Beyond the Refuge

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Can’t get enough wildlife watching? Go beyond the refuge boundaries to these locations…


  • Along State Highway 101

    Use designated pullouts along the southern part of Willapa Bay to scan the water or mudflats. Watch for river otters, raccoons, waterfowl, shorebirds, kingfishers, gulls, terns and raptors.

  • Ilwaco Harbor

    Purple Martins have nested in holes in the dock pilings for the past two years.  Northern harriers can be seen flying over the grassy areas. When the tide is out, look for shorebirds such as least sandpipers on the mudflats and other shorebirds and waterfowl feeding on or near the rocks.  Check out the docks for resting birds such as cormorants, great blue herons, killdeer and gulls. The harbor itself is often home to loons, ducks, and cormorants, including the occasional yellow-billed loon in winter. There are usually hundreds of ducks and geese resting and feeding along the shoreline in the fall and spring.  Look up to see bald eagles, ravens and crows.

  • Cape Disappointment State Park

    This state park has a wide variety of wildlife habitat.  Black-tailed deer, raccoon, river otter, and coyote are often seen.  There are many species of birds here too. A large variety of birds are usually present in the park throughout the year.  The largest variety is seen during spring and fall migration. Learn more about visiting Cape Disappointment State Park…

    The Waikiki beach parking lot is a good place to look for Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants which nest on the rocky slopes below the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.  Look for pigeon guillemots, brown pelicans, gulls, Caspian terns, harbor seals and sea lions in the waters off the parking lot. Check the lakes, ponds and wetlands for geese, ducks, herons, and nutria. 

    Beards Hollow: Walk the trail to the ocean and look high in the trees for kinglets, chickadees, bushtits, warblers and downy woodpeckers. The boardwalk is an excellent place for viewing wildlife too.  Tree swallows, hairy woodpeckers, warblers, song sparrows, hooded mergansers, marsh wrens and other ducks are among the birds you will see here. 

    North Head Lighthouse:  Black-tailed deer live here. Grey whales can be spotted from the grounds in front of the lighthouse or from the highest points of the path on the way to the lighthouse. Look for their waterspouts as they play in the water or feed in the area. The rocky hills below the lighthouse are home to nesting cormorants in the spring. Look for both pelagic and double-crested cormorants. Black Oystercatchers, wandering tattlers and other shorebirds may also be seen on the rocky slopes. Scoters, pigeon guillemots and other seabirds can be seen swimming in the ocean or flying past.

  • Port of Nahcotta

    Black Turnstones, loons, small sandpipers, swallows, grebes and ducks can be seen in season. Birds associated with the water are most common and several species can be seen on most visits. In winter, common loons and horned grebes are common.

  • Ocean Beaches

    A visit to any of the beach entrances along the Long Beach peninsula generally offers good wildlife watching. Be sure to look all directions, including into the dunes, across the sand, above the water and into the sky. Birds abound, including raptors, crows, ravens, gulls, terns, pelicans, and occasional rarities such as snow buntings and snowy owls in winter. Large flocks of mixed shorebirds feed near the water’s edge or rest near the dunes. Winter storms wash up injured birds, dead sea mammals (such as porpoises, whales and seals), and the rare sea turtle. Look for tracks in the sand. Once in a while, black bears, coyotes or deer visit the beach area.