With habitats ranging from wetlands to upland oak savanna, the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a hotspot for a diverse array of birdlife, mammals and plants.
From the eastern entrance of the refuge, visitors can meander through one of the last remaining intact wet prairies of the valley, which supports endangered plant species such as Bradshaw’s desert parsley, and a panoply of bird life including western meadowlark, streaked horned lark and northern harrier. Refuge lowlands also support Muddy Creek’s habitats as well as sprawling wetlands and systems of ponds housing western pond turtles and red-legged frogs. These refuge wetlands provide vital wintering habitat for both Canada geese and many other migratory waterfowl and thousands of birds can be seen there in winter. From there the habitat shifts to upland Oregon white oak savannas and mixed deciduous forests where you might find acorn woodpecker colonies, great-horned owl, or the resident Roosevelt elk herd.
Aside from the 12 miles of trail that meander through each of these habitats and the plethora of wildlife to be seen, the refuge also provides opportunities to explore the cultural history of the area. Interpretive signs mark vast camas fields, once tended by the native Kalapuya people, and the 1855 Fiechter House, said to be the oldest building in Benton County, which provides a glimpse at the lives of European settlers and marks the track of the Applegate trail which runs through the refuge as well.
Established in 1964, the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge’s primary management goal is to provide wintering habitat for dusky Canada geese. Unlike other Canada goose subspecies, duskies have limited summer and winter ranges. They nest in Alaska’s Copper River Delta and winter almost exclusively in the wetlands of the Willamette Valley—much of which was drained to provide open fields for agriculture and pasture during the 19th century European settlement. With the extensive habitat restoration projects at work on all 5,325 acres of the refuge and the 341 acres of its Snag Boat Bend Unit, it makes driving through like taking a step back into the natural history of the Willamette Valley.
Other Facilities in this Complex
William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central location. Refuges are grouped because they occur in a similar ecological region and have a related purpose and management needs. These refuges for example, were created in the 1960s specifically for the habitat they provide for the dusky Canada geese in the winter.
The Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of three refuges: William L. Finley NWR and its additional Snag Boat Bend Unit, Ankeny NWR and Baskett Slough NWR.