National Wildlife Refuge System

Conboy Lake Refuge: "Undiscovered Gem"

Bog deervetch
Bog deervetch is a spring wildflower visitors may find at Conboy Lake Refuge, WA.
Credit: Joe Engler

April 8, 2015 - Conboy Lake Refuge is commemorating 50 years of conservation, protection and education this month, as the sparseness of winter yields to the resplendence of spring in Klickitat County, Washington.

Though Conboy Lake, in the shadow of Mt. Adams,  may have become more of a swamp due to past attempts at drainage, majestic scenery across its 7,071 acres continues to astonish and calm visitors.

“People always love the sense of solitude at Conboy Lake,” says Lisa Wilson, assistant refuge manager. “It’s an undiscovered gem.”

Conboy Refuge is home to more than 165 species of birds, most of which migrate south for the winter each year. Established in 1965 with cooperation from the Migratory Bird Commission, its main function is to restore and protect the bird species that have always frequented the area. Once inhabited by cranes, 19th-century settlers largely drove away the wading birds. Today, about 26 pairs of cranes have repopulated the haven.

spotted frog
The Oregon spotted frog was discovered at Conboy Refuge in 2002 and is an endangered species in the state of Washington.
Credit: Joe Engler

The Oregon spotted frog, discovered at the refuge in 2002 and recently declared an endangered species by the state of Washington, frolics through the swamps enjoying the security of the refuge. Conboy Lake is one of only four known homes for the species. However, due to the threat of non-native predators such as bullfrogs, the refuge has struggled to maintain dwindling spotted frog populations over the past decade.

“We’ve been experimenting with predator control, and we expect an increase when we conduct our annual egg count in March. We’re both nervous and excited about what we’ll find,” says Wilson.

Visitors can expect to find bustling herds of elk, breathtaking views of aspen trees against Mt. Adams, and stunning rainbows unique to the rainy Northwest. If all goes as planned, they may just glimpse a rare Oregon spotted frog as well.

Conboy Lake Refuge brochure

Last updated: April 8, 2015