Photography & Wildlife Observation

Landscape Photographer

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is an exceptionally striking desert refuge; we hope you'll agree.

An abundance of water means an abundance of wildlife, and wildlife of all families and species can be see year-round. However, spring is when the sheer numbers of migratory birds is awe-inspiring. Ten of thousands of geese, ducks, Sandhill cranes and smaller neotropical songbirds visit the refuge to refuel on their ancient travels to breeding grounds far to the north. Visit unplowed farm fields in the early morning or late afternoon to see and hear ‘tornados’ of waterfowl as they recharge for their travels.

One of the best places to see waterfowl is from the Royal Lake Overlook. Royal Lake hosts thousands of waterfowl in winter, including ducks of all sorts, Canada and snow geese, and tundra swans. When not ice-covered, the lake can be black with birds. It is a heart-stopping spectacle when the birds rise off the water together at once-a whirlwind of innumerable animals, a cacophony of sound. The lake itself lies in an area closed to the public, but the overlook is accessible at the corner of Byers Road and Road 14.8 SE.

Looking for wildflowers in the spring is an undiscovered activity on the refuge. The emergence of wildflowers is different every year—depending upon the amount and timing of precipitation—but in general, early flowers begin to show themselves in the beginning of April. The flower show is usually over in early June.

The Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark is located within the refuge. One of the easiest ways to see this landmark is from its designated highway pull-off. From there, you can see one of the most spectacularly water-eroded landscapes in the world. It’s easy to imagine the enormous ice age floods tearing away at rocks and soil, leaving behind only the strongest skeleton of what was.