About the Refuge

Mourning Doves

Established in 1969 as mitigation for habitat lost through flooding from the construction of the John Day Dam, the wetlands of Umatilla provide an oasis for waterfowl, especially in the winter.

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is a network of lands bordering the Oregon and Washington shore lines of the Columbia River. Comprised of five units—three in Washington and two in Oregon—the refuge's 23,555 acres offer a broad collection of habitats, and thus species. Natural and managed wetlands, mixed with native shrub-steppe, provide homes for an abundance of Columbia Basin species. The wildlife, in turn, attracts visitors, hunters, anglers and birdwatchers. The refuge is well-known for its waterfowl hunting opportunities, and those same waterfowl, along with scores of species of waterbirds, passerines and mule deer, draw visitors from around the Northwest and beyond.

Providing waterfowl habitat is a major focus of the refuge, but many other species call the place home throughout the year. Spring and fall migration are exciting times to visit the refuge. In the spring, many species come to nest, including burrowing owls and long-billed curlews. Many species of songbirds can be seen and heard within the wetlands—marsh wrens, yellow-headed blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds and white pelicans arrive with the spring and linger on into the summer season. Summers are warm here, frequently reaching temperatures of over 100 degrees, causing many wildlife species to quietly spend their days hiding out waiting for cooler morning and evening temperatures.

The refuge shines brightest in the winter as thousands of waterfowl make their return, spending the winter foraging, resting and preparing for the upcoming nesting season. The sharp calls of Canada geese can be heard reverberating on the crisp winter air, with the quack of mallards and the whistle of a pintail blending in.