Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge

What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system and drives everything we do from the establishment of the refuge, to the recreational activities we offer, to the resource management tools we deploy. Utilizing the right management tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purposes of the refuge.

Management and Conservation

The refuge uses a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. The management methods and tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. 

Invasive Plant Control

Invasive plants are a serious threat to wildlife and plant communities on many National Wildlife Refuges. At Grays Harbor NWR, the mild climate allows a number of non-native plants to thrive. These plants become invasive when they disrupt native plant communities. The Refuge uses several techniques to control invasive plants. Phragmites or common reed is a bamboo-like, invasive plant that has invaded parts of Grays Harbor estuary and over-taken large portions of the low growing salt marsh salt marsh
Salt marshes are found in tidal areas near the coast, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.

Learn more about salt marsh
community. Because Phragmites grows so tall and dense, it prevents shorebirds and waterfowl from utilizing habitats with much-needed food requirements. Non-native Spartina cordgrass is an example of what can be accomplished with partners and shared resources. This plant grows quickly in salt marshes and mudflats, threatening native plant and invertebrate communities and shorebird foraging habitat. Left unchecked, the species had covered large areas of marsh habitat in Grays Harbor estuary. With annual funding and collaboration, locally and beyond, the level of encroachment is significantly less and at a manageable level. The Refuge continues to work with State agencies and others to survey and control Spartina on the estuary and coastline, to ensure it doesn't re-establish. The Refuge prioritizes invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
that are included in the County's noxious weed list, including knotweed and yellow flag iris. 

Wildlife Surveys and Studies

Wildlife surveys and studies support sound Refuge management. Shorebird surveys in Grays Harbor and other flyway locations indicate some populations may be declining. Studies are needed to help understand the causes and identify solutions. Refuge staff and volunteers participate in the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey coordinated by the Service's Migratory Bird Program to monitor shorebirds throughout the Pacific Northwest. We support Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's shorebird monitoring and research projects, primarily red knots, in Grays Harbor Estuary for assessing long-term trends in populations.  

Law Enforcement

In order to protect and maintain habitats and the wildlife they support, it's essential for visitors to follow rules and guidelines. Trail locations and access are designed to provide viewing experiences and guide visitors to areas with the least potential for wildlife disturbance. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officers help visitors understand and obey refuge rules and wildlife protection laws.

Laws and Regulations

Grays Harbor Refuge protects habitats and is home to wildlife. We ask that you follow rules and guidelines while visiting and walking the trails. The Port of Grays Harbor manages Bowerman Airfield and the asphalt road leading to the Refuge's Sandpiper Trail. The Port does not permit access to the hangars, taxiways, and runways.