About the Refuge

Franz Lake Overlook - Lynn Topinka - Promo Intro 512x219

Wildlife at Franz Lake NWR can be seen from an overlook off of Washington State Route 14, between mile markers 31 and 32.


Franz Lake Refuge is the largest and most intact wapato, spikerush and bulrush marsh remaining on the lower Columbia River and is known for its seasonal abundance of tundra swans. These and other migratory birds can be seen from an observation platform in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area off of Washington State Route 14.

The refuge contains a total of 590 acres and was established in 1990 to preserve biodiversity along the Columbia River. Management practices are directed at maintaining and monitoring rare Columbia River floodplain wetland and riparian habitats and forested watershed buffers. Knowledge gained through this research will contribute to the understanding to how the lower Columbia River floodplain can be managed to protect, restore, and enhance native habitats and species. In keeping with this research and monitoring emphasis, human disturbance is kept to a minimum.

The refuge provides a variety of habitats including riparian woodlands, riverine wetlands, and transitional woodlands from lower elevation willows to mid-elevation mature fir and cedar forests. The refuge hosts native understory shrub communities, open meadows, and numerous streams and seeps.

Franz and Arthur lakes contain healthy stands of Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) which provide a critical habitat component for wintering tundra swans and other waterfowl. Other wildlife commonly observed on the refuge includes great blue herons, gulls, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and numerous songbirds. Several springs and seeps on the refuge have been identified as important brood and rearing areas for juvenile salmon.