When you hear someone mention the state of Washington, you might think of rainy weather or the city of Seattle. However, the state of Washington has more to offer than just wet weather. Wildlife enthusiasts will be in awe at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, which extends along the east bank of the Columbia River in southeastern Washington. The refuge welcomes migratory birds, native plants, and human visitors alike, to come and enjoy the beautiful nature of Washington.
Stretching from the Snake River to the mouth of the Walla Walla River, and downstream into Oregon, the McNary National Wildlife Refuge has extensive access to water. It is located in Burbank but can be defined as an “urban refuge.” In 1956 the refuge was established to replace a wildlife habitat that was lost to the construction on the McNary Dam downstream. With 15,000 acres of sloughs, ponds, streams, islands, riparian and wetland habitats, the refuge has a place for the migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. There are very few areas in North America that supports such dense concentrations of waterfowl. McNary National Wildlife Refuge has an excellent population of raptors, mammal species, reptiles, and amphibians.
Hiking & Horseback Riding
Mount a gorgeous horse or lace up your hiking boots, because the refuge offers several trails to take a trip around and see the picturesque scenery. There are two trails designated for horseback riding and each is four miles long. One is located on the Wallula Unit and follows the Walla Walla River on the north side upstream from Madam Dorian Park. The other trail is located on the Peninsula Unit and follows the river shoreline. Hikers can trek on the designated horse trails, but they must yield to horses.
Wildlife Observation & Photography
Birdwatchers will delight over the array of birds to observe. More than 200 species of birds frequent the refuge, attracted by a diverse range of habitats. From the months of October through February, a large concentration of migrating waterfowl can be seen. The peak season for seeing the birds is in December. Enjoy listening to songbirds along the west end of Burbank Slough or on the nature trail within the riparian forests. Visitors may spot a red-tailed, sharp-shinned, or Cooper’s hawk, and northern harriers. Make sure to pack your binoculars!
Enjoy all that nature offers on a self-guided nature trail tour. The two-mile trail is easily accessible from the McNary Environmental Education Center and twists around Burbank Slough. The trail is well marked with interpretive signs.
Pull out your rods and tackle box, and enjoy fishing on McNary’s Quarry Pond. The pond is the only location on the refuge where the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks fish. Fishing is the most popular activity for visitors and is particularly popular with teens, families, and seniors. With visiting hours from sunrise to sunset, the refuge offers guest access to some of the best fish in the state. Of course, the refuge is a place where wildlife comes first. Fishing is permitted on the refuge in designated areas and in accordance with state and federal regulations.
To find out more information, view or download the state fishing regulations at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing web site.
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Photo courtesy David Lee.