Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region


Art Trail Hiking Long Island Hunting Fishing
Camping Photography/Blind Reservations Bird Watching Wildlife Observation


Willapa Interpretive Art Trail

The Willapa Interpretive Art Trail was created to commemorate the restoration of a small stream near Refuge Headquarters. From the curving one-quarter mile long ADA accessible boardwalk, visitors can occasionally observe the spawning salmon. Artwork located along the boardwalk helps to tell the stories of the stream and the many species who live there. Students from the University of Washington Public Arts Program designed, entrance to salmon art trailconstructed, and installed the artwork for the trail under the direction of professors John Young, Ian Robertson, and Jim Nicholls.

Visitors may find themselves perched on a mud-loving marine worm while picnicking on the back of a dragonfly. The table was designed by UW art student Gary Carpenter. The species in Carpenter's table are mud-dependent and less glamorous, a deliberate choice because the refuge staff wanted the artists' works to represent smaller, underappreciated species. Near the dragonfly table, the Art Trail winds down a boardwalk that is ADA accessible. Everyone on the path has to step over "A Story in Shards," made of hammered bits of bronze inserted in the boardwalk surface by artist Allison Blevins. Farther up the trail are bronze sculptures of life stages of the tailed frog and western brook lampreys on a stone susalmon in treesrface made by Jacqye Jones. The boardwalk is graced with 25 life-size bronze sculptures of the 14 species of amphibians found in the refuge. As people continue down the trail, they'll pass the contribution of Becca Weiss, a dozen painted aluminum birds that float on big, looping white stands. Even more noticeable are a run of 50 metal chum nailed high in trees.

Cutthroat Climb Trail

The Interpretive Art Trail leads to the Cutthroat Climb loop, which continues another 0.75 mile (1.2 km). Artist Becca Weiss's birds are your companion as the trail rises -- and then falls -- steeply through the deep-woods of old-growth hemlocks and ferns. The trail has some wooden steps. Be sure to watch you footing as the trail may be slippery and tree roots may cause tripping hazards.

Along the trail are signs with the tracks of forest inhabitants such as deer, bear and raccoon. Lift up the metal plates to uncover the names of the animal who makes each track.

The Willapa Interpretive Art Trail is open seven days a week from dawn till dusk.


Leadbetter Unit

Located at the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula, trails in the Leadbetter Unit allow visitors to walk through coastal woodlands, salt marshes, and beaches. Many miles of pedestrian-only trails link the Leadbetter Unit with adjacent Leadbetter Point State Park. These trails can be flooded with deep pools of water during the rainy season (October through May), so plan accordingly.

Long Island

Long Island is only accessibe by boat. A network of old logging roads converted to trails provide over 10 miles (16.1 km) of hiking opportunities. One of the most popular destinations is the Trail of the Ancient Cedars, a 0.75 mile (1.2 km) loop trail near the center of the island. To get to this location, land your boat at the old ferry landing on the southern tip of Long Island and follow the center road north, the trail to the Grove of the Ancient Cedars is approximately 2.5 miles (4km) from the landing. A detailed hiking map of Long Island can be found here (270 KB PDF).

Refuge Headquarters

The Cutthroat Climb trail spurs off the Willapa Interpretive Art Trail and climbs into the forest. The trail is a moderate 0.75 mile (1.2 km) long trail with steps cut into the hillside for easier movement up and down the ridge. Additional art pieces weave through the trail, providing an enlightening perspective of the natural world that is fun for all ages.

Long Island

Long Island is the Pacific Coast's largest estuarine island. The island is 5,640 acres and includes a rare 274-acre remnant of old growth lowland coastal forest. Many of the red cedar trees in this grove are over 900 years old. The rain-drenched forests on the island grow rapidly; dense with salal, huckleberry, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce. Hundreds of species of mushrooms and other fungus are also found. NOTE: The harvesting of mushrooms is prohibited.
kayak to long island
Long Island's rich forest provides homes for mammals such as black bear, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, beaver, and river otter. Standing dead trees provide important nesting cavities for species such as pileated woodpeckers and flying squirrels while fallen trees are home to the rare Van Dyke's and Dunn's salamanders. The shaggy bark of the oldest trees provides homes for silver-haired bats and Pacific tree frogs.

The nutrient-rich marine environment surrounding Long Island supports oysters, clams, crabs, salmon, steelhead, and numerous other marine organisms.

Long Island can only be accessed by boat. Most, but not all, of the campgrounds require a 6 foot (1.2 m) or higher tide, however the landing directly across from Refuge Headquarters can be accessed at any tide. Additional launch facilities are located at the Nahcotta Mooring basin in Nahcotta on Long Beach Peninsula. Day use on Long Island is encouraged to minimize impacts on wildlife and their habitat; however camping is permitted on Long Island. Always carry a tide table, weather radio, and some form of communication when camping on Long Island. Bring your water as there is no potable water is available on Long Island. To maintain the quiet, remote nature of the island, gas and diesel powered equipment is prohibited on Long Island.

State owned tidelands are open to public clamming on the western side of Long Island. You must possess a permit to harvest during season established by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Be mindful of boundaries as many privately owned tidelands surround Long Island and are closed to the public.


Willapa National Wildlife Refuge permits camping in designated spaces on Long Island. To minimize disturbances to wildlife and their habitats, no camping is permitted on the mainland portion of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. (For those interested in camping on the mainland, sites are available at the many area state and county parks and commercial campgrounds.)

long island mapThere are five primitive campgrounds on Long Island with a total of 20 campsites. Each campsite includes a picnic table, fire ring and access to a solar-powered toilet. Cutting of live trees or standing dead trees is prohibited because they provide homes for wildlife, but collection of fallen wood is allowed. Because wood may not be available near the campsites, we recommend that you bring your own.

Camp sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only. Campers are required to register and obtain a free camping permit for specific campsites during the early elk archery season. The permit must be affixed to the campsite post during your stay. Registration is not required the remainder of the year. Early elk archery season generally takes place for three weeks in September, but exact dates vary. Leaving items unattended to hold a campsite is prohibited. Due to the high numbers of visitors during this period, no individual or group may camp for more than 14 days during this period. A maximum of five people are allowed per campsite.

Many different species of wildlife make their homes on Long Island, including numerous black bears. Camp "bear friendly" by hanging food or bringing a bear-proof canister, and packing up your garbage. Adopt the "leave no trace" ethic to ensure a fun visit for yourself and those who follow. Please do not burn or leave trash.

For detailed information on camping, please contact Refuge Headquarters at 360-484-3482 or willapa@fws.gov.

Tidal fluctuations and currents, coupled with extensive mud flats and rapidly changing weather can make getting to and from the island difficult and potentially dangerous. Carry a tide table and check weather forecasts. Walking on Willapa Bay mud flats is difficult, messy and potentially hazardous. The fine silty mud can act much like quicksand. For updated tide information, please visit salt water tides.


Willapa National Wildlife Refuge provides hunting opportunities for both big game and waterfowl hunters. More...

A hunting overview map and regulations can be found here (650 KB PDF).


Although the refuge surrounds much of southern Willapa Bay, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is not considered a prime fishing location. Fishing is permitted from the shores of Willapa Bay. Most visitors interested in fishing on the refuge are in search of sturgeon. Fishing is not permitted on the refuge streams, beaver ponds or interior sloughs. For additional information, please see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


The Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge constructed a photography blind on a seasonal freshwater wetland in 2003. The best time of year to use the blind is during the winter and early spring when the wetland is full of water and feeding waterfowl. The blind is available by reservation only. To make a reservation, please contact Refuge Headquarters at 360-484-3482.

Bird Watching

wood duck pairWillapa National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to view and photograph a variety of wildlife. During the fall and spring migrations, the refuge is home to thousands of migrating shorebirds including dunlins, sanderlings, short-billed dowitchers, and black-bellied plovers.

The best place to view shorebirds on the refuge is on the ocean side of the Leadbetter Unit at a fairly high tide. At a medium tide, shorebird viewing is better on the bay side of the refuge as shorebirds come in to feed on the exposed mudflats. At low tide, shorebird viewing is difficult because the birds generally feed a long way out from shore, making them difficult to see even with a spotting scope.

The refuge is home to several threatened species including the snowy plover and marbled murrelet. Other species that are commonly spotted throughout the refuge include bald eagles, great blue herons, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, marsh wrens, and golden-crowned kinglets.

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is part of The Great Washington State Birding Trail.

More information on birding in Washington State, including maps, resources and recent sightings.

Wildlife Observation

There are many places on the refuge where you can commonly view and photograph large herds of Roosevelt elk. Black-tailed deer, black bear, and bobcat are more elusive. Watch for river otters or harbor seals. The refuge is home to 14 species of amphibians. Rough skinned newts, Pacific tree frogs, and red-legged frogs are commonly seen on the trails on cool, moist days (watch where you step!). Other species such as Dunn's, Van Dyke's, and Northwestern Salamanders are more challenging to spot.

REMINDER: No dogs are permitted at any unit of the refuge, including trails and parking lots. For the protection of wildlife and the enjoyment of other visitors, please leave your pets at home.

Bird List

Mammal List

Amphibians and Reptiles List

Last updated: March 12, 2013