Coronavirus (COVID-19) Notice
Although most refuge lands and outdoor spaces have remained open for the public to enjoy, we ask that you do the following:

  • Check local conditions on this website and call ahead for current information. Operations vary based on local public health conditions.
  • Face masks are required in all federal buildings and on all federal lands.
  • Maintain a safe distance between yourself and other groups.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Most importantly, stay home if you feel sick


Features

  • Coyote Sentinel

    Coyotes

    Possibly the most adaptable animal in North America (raccoons might disagree), coyotes thrive almost anywhere—including shrub-steppe.

    Coyotes

  • Basalt Columns

    Geology

    Columbia NWR has a fascinating—and violent—geologic history. To truly know the refuge, you have to understand its past.

    Geology

  • Cedar Waxwings Kissing

    Photo Galleries

    Some incredible photographers have donated some incredible photographs. If you can't visit Columbia NWR, this is a great consolation prize.

    Photo Galleries

  • Washington Ground Squirrel Promo

    Washington Ground Squirrels

    Too cute by half, Washington ground squirrels unfortunately spend most of the year below ground. Too bad; you can never get enough of them.

    Washington Ground Squirrels

  • Rattlesnake Promo

    Rimrock Species

    Columbia NWR is blessed with an abundance of rock faces, cliffs and crevices—perfect habitat for many species.

    Rimrock Species

Refuge News

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

March 20, 2021 Sandhill Crane Festival Promo

The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is greatly limited this year due to COVID-19. However, there are a few events online. None of these events are associated with the refuge, however. As it has throughout this pandemic, the refuge lands remain open, but the buildings are closed. If you do decide to visit, please use extreme care and practice standard COVID-19 protocols; masks are required on all federal lands.

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival Site

Duck Hanky Panky

Crazy Duck

See a duck behaving oddly between December and March? You’re likely catching ducks in the act of courtship! Mallards rapidly pumping their heads up and down? How about males raising their bodies out of the water, pulling their heads up and whistling, then grunting? Often a bunch of males do this together to show off to females. Common goldeneye males throw their heads violently backwards to bounce of their backs while giving a little kick. Northern shovelers engage in exciting aerial displays as they erratically twist, dip and circle. In the water, shoveler drakes bill-jerk and neck-stretch to impress the girls. These elaborate courtship rituals encourage cooperation in choosing to pair.

Reminder, Rock Climbing Is Prohibited

Rock Climbing

Due to the ‘discovery’ of an online video, there has been a surge in rock climbing at Columbia. We understand the attraction of the basalt columns to climbers. However, those same columns are also attractive to wildlife—bird nests, marmot dens, snake hibernacula, bat roosts, and any number of other uses. Please respect the fact that Columbia NWR is closed to rock climbing and that there are any number of other areas to climb basalt columns in central Washington.

The Seasons

Spring

Duckling

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to visit any time of the year, but nothing compares to spring. The refuge turns green for a few short months. Fishing returns. Temperatures are perfect for visiting. But it's the explosion of wildlife that truly defines the season and the refuge. Waterfowl by the thousands—tens of thousands—stop by on their great migrations to breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada. Others, like some shorebirds, may be pushing on even further to the countries of the Arctic Circle and need food and rest to continue. While on a shorter, but still epic migration, thousands of lesser Sandhill cranes poke through last year's agricultural fields for leftover grains and protein-rich insects. The cranes, ducks and geese crowd the same fields, creating tornados of flight and noise when they take off together. Less obvious and less awe-inspiring, but more colorful, warblers and finches and kinglets flit along the riparian corridors as they, too, make their way to nesting grounds. Don't miss the show.

About the Complex

Mid-Columbia River Complex

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Mid-Columbia River Complex.

Read more about the complex
About the NWRS

National Wildlife Refuge System

NWRS Logo

The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants.

Learn more about the NWRS