Wildlife Watching Hotspots

Roosevelt elk gather in herds throughout the refuge/Photo Courtesy of AMEC Earth & Environmental

Although any spot can be a good location to watch wildlife, we recommend the following best places to eye nature… 

  • Refuge Headquarters

    Art Trail 

    This accessible boardwalk brings you up close and personal with a host of wildlife species. Scan the tree tops for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and great blue herons. Lower branches may display thrushes, kingfishers, warblers and chickadees. Swallows swoop over waterways in summer to collect insects with which to feed their young. Look for swallow nests on buildings near the parking area. Waterstriders, diving beetles, water scorpions and rough-skinned newts may be seen in the pond throughout most of the year, although spring and summer months have the most activity. A raucous of frog song calls in the spring. Look for jellied masses of amphibian eggs in slow moving water. Grassy areas collect sunning garter snakes on warm days, and often display evidence of Roosevelt elk or black-tailed deer. Seek tracks of raccoon or river otter along muddy shorelines. Salmon once spawned in this stream. Visit in late fall and watch for their return. Learn more about the trail…

    Cutthroat Climb Trail 

    This physically challenging and fun trail is an excellent place to look for evidence of wildlife. You will most likely find evidence of Roosevelt elk, for example, if you look down.  Listening and looking up will reward you with wildlife sightings. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, thrushes, wrens, flycatchers and chickadees, for example, are at their loudest during nesting season (May –June). They are often high in the trees. Some species, like the Pacific and Bewick’s wren, are more likely to be seen flitting about in the undergrowth. Watch underfoot for slow moving banana slugs or rough-skinned newts sharing the path. Learn more about the trail…

    Boat Launch 

    The view of Long Island and Willapa Bay across from Refuge Headquarters is a good place to start looking for wildlife. The muddy shorelines attract ducks, herons, raccoons and more. The deeper water gathers loons, mergansers, gulls, cormorants, eagles, osprey and terns. Scan pilings and low branches over water for kingfishers. During fall months, salmon can be seen jumping. Look across to the saltmarsh and forest on Long Island. Occasionally Roosevelt elk and black bear can be viewed here.

  • Long Island Unit

    Access to Long Island is by boat only. For those who make the trip, many opportunities to encounter wildlife awaits. Raccoons, river otters, porcupine, black bears, black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk call the island home. Sloughs, mudflats, and forests erupt with birds of all shapes and sizes. Amphibians find the wet forests and swampy lowlands a fine place to feed and breed. Young salmon use the shallows and streams to forage and get ready to transition to larger bodies of water. Find out more about Long Island…

  • Leadbetter Point Unit

    At the northern tip of the Long Beach peninsula, Leadbetter Point encompasses a variety of habitats and ample places to view wildlife for hearty adventures and casual visitors. A short trail leads to a viewing platform with a panorama of northern Willapa Bay. Depending on the tides, shorebirds and waterfowl may only be visible to those with binoculars or a spotting scope. Sparrows and raptors hunt the saltmarsh. Here, where the bay meets the shore, pickleweed grows. Look for tracks of birds, insects and mammals in the sand.

    The forest is a mix of shorepine, western hemlock, wax myrtle and huckleberry bushes. Listen for the song of western tanager, warblers and black-headed grosbeak in summer months, and chickadees, kinglets and thrushes throughout the year.

    Dune areas are home to a variety of rare plants, including grape fern and pink sandverbena. Stay on the trail and adhere to closures, as threatened streaked horned larks and western snowy plovers nest here. Their well-camouflaged nests are hard to see and easy to disturb by accident. Scan the area for the resident elk herd or the occasional coyote. Snowy owls are rare winter visitors.

    Access the ocean beaches to look for migrating whales in spring, or resting seals or sea lions in summer. Gulls, terns, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and shorebirds all seek the bounty the beach has to offer. In summer months, watch for flocks of brown pelicans or sooty shearwaters feeding in the near-shore waves.

    Find out more about visiting Leadbetter Point…

  • Riekkola, Porter Point and Lewis Units

    NOTE: the Lewis Unit is closed to public entry. 

    Travel to the end of 67th Road to a land of wet fields and soggy forests. Raptors hunt the open fields, sparrows stalk in hedgerows, waterfowl and shorebirds can be found in open fields, saltmarsh or mudflats. Listen for the eerie calls of varied thrush or the “krrrreck” of Pacific treefrogs. Elk, otters, coyotes and long-tailed weasels dine here. Lucky visitors may encounter barn, barred, great-horned or short-eared owls. Access is by foot-only. Be aware of hunting activity during fall and winter months.

  • Tarlatt Unit

    Travel along 95th and 85th from Sandridge Road, use pull-offs and areas near gates to safety park your car. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and mammals can be seen from the roadsides. Barn swallows perch on the fence lines, Savannah sparrows sing from the fence posts, and tree swallows and violet-green swallows use the nesting boxes installed along the road. The best time of the year for seeing birds along these road boundaries is during spring and fall migration (April – May, August – October).  Late fall through early spring finds the fields in the Tarlatt Unit water-logged, which makes them a safe haven for many migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.  Tarlatt Slough can be viewed from the eastern end of 95th. Look for river otters, buffleheads and mergansers.

    Wildlife Viewing Blind 

    Follow 85th east from Sandridge Road. Park at the first gate on the north side of the road and use the walk through gate to travel on an old road to the viewing blind. The blind has views of a seasonal wetlands, open fields and large conifers. Raptors, sparrows, swallows, waterfowl and even the occasional phalarope can be viewed from here. 

  • Teal Slough Unit

    Scan the mudflats to the north and west of the pullout. Look for Belted Kingfishers on the wires or posts, and listen for their loud rattle as they fly from perch to perch. Look for ducks, mergansers, shorebirds and gulls on the mudflats and in the mouth of the Naselle River as it enters Willapa Bay.

    Walk the old road to find ancient trees amid a tangle of shrubs and “dog-hair” young trees. Listen for forest birds, such as kinglets, chickadees, thrushes, and woodpeckers. The damp forest here is home to a variety of salamanders. Look for scat or tracks of mammals, such as bear, raccoon or elk. Find out more about the Teal Slough Trail…

  • Bear River Unit

    Park without blocking the gate along State Route 101 and walk the road to the south. During spring months, the brilliant yellow skunk cabbage grows in large numbers. Pacific Wrens can be heard and seen in the undergrowth.  During summer, rufous hummingbirds visit flowering shrubs. Look for them feeding on nectar from tube like flowers or picking off insects and spiders from the leaves of shrubs and ferns.  Salmon and lamprey return to these streams to spawn. November is a good time to start looking for colorful chum salmon. Be aware of hunting activity in fall and winter months.

    Scan the main channel of Bear River across the highway, and the slough on the south side of the road, for playful river otters, ducks, shorebirds, sparrows and raptors.

  • Beyond the Refuge

    Nestled between the Columbia River, the Pacific Ocean, Willapa Bay and the Willapa Hills Pacific County is full of places to observe its wild residents. Discover additional locations to view wildlife…