About the Refuge

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Pummeled by surf and whittled by wind, Copalis shelters over a million migrating birds each year, providing important resting and feeding sites as the birds journey along the Pacific coast.


A Home for Migrants


Along with Flattery Rocks and Quillayute Needles, Copalis was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 as one of the earliest National Wildlife Refuges in an effort to protect and enhance habitat for struggling seabird populations. Together these Refuges have been designated wilderness and include approximately 800 off-shore rocks, reefs and islands stretching from Cape Flattery in the north to just south of Copalis Head, excepting those that are part of designated Native American reservations. Today the islands swell with raucous flocks of migrating seabirds including Caspian terns and sooty shearwaters during fall and spring migrations. In summer the vast majority of Washington’s breeding seabirds jostle for space on these remote rocks. Black oystercatchers tend pebbly nests at the water’s edge, common murres lay gravity defying eggs on barren ledges, and tufted puffins burrow their nests deep into the loamy bluffs.

Because of the fragile and remote nature of the Refuge all the islands are closed to human disturbance. A 200-yard buffer zone surrounds each island to protect the wildlife. However the Refuges and their inhabitants may be viewed with binoculars or spotting scopes from several beaches along the coast, including Shi Shi, Cape Alava, Rialto, Second, Ruby, and Kalaloch.