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USA Parks
Volcano Country Region
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
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Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Blue Heron © Lonnie Sullivan
Taken with a Canon Rebel XT, a Canon EFS 70-300 IS USM. Taken at ISO 100, 190mm, exposure 1/50 at f11
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Blue Heron Taking Flight © Gary Neiss
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Boardwalk © rj dawson
One of the many trails with seasonal interest at the Nisqually Bird Refuge
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge The Morning Gathering © Gary Neiss
During the lower tide these Blue Heron were gathered together out in the shallows.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Reflections Nisqually Fall © rj dawson
Reflection of fall color on freshwater pond at Nisqually Bird Refuge
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge © Aziel Epilepsia
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge © Aziel Epilepsia
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge © Aziel Epilepsia
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge American Bittern Heron © Gary Neiss
Found this heron staking in the reeds along the marsh lands.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Red Tailed Hawk © Gary Neiss
This hawk likes flying across the main walk area and is not afraid of people hanging around to take its picture.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Young Bald Eagle © Gary Neiss
Availability Search
100 Brown Farm Road Northeast
Olympia, Washington   98516
(lat:47.0728 lon:-122.7127) map location

Phone: 360-753-9467
The Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, on the Nisqually River Delta in southern Puget Sound, was established in 1974 for the protection of migratory birds. Three thousand acres of salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands, riparian, and mixed forest habitats provide resting and nesting areas for migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds.

Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 544 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States. Managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior, the National Wildlife Refuges encompass over 95 million acres of land for wildlife.

The mission of the Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

We invite you to explore the web site or experience firsthand the many programs and events that are designed to provide visitors with a memorable Refuge experience. Enjoy your visit
Nature of the Area
A Home for Wildlife As surrounding wildlife habitat is lost to development, Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge has become an increasingly important place for wildlife, especially migratory birds. For some birds, Nisqually Refuge is a place to feed and rest before continuing on, while for others it is the end of their season's journey.

A Protected Estuary The Nisqually River Delta, a biologically rich and diverse area at the southern end of Puget Sound, supports a variety of habitats. Here, the freshwater of the Nisqually River combines with the saltwater of Puget Sound to form an estuary rich in nutrients and detritus. These nutrients support a web of sea life - the benefits of which extend throughout Puget Sound and beyond. Together with McAllister and Red Salmon Creeks, the Nisqually River forms one of the largest remaining relatively undisturbed estuaries in Washington. Although most major estuaries in Washington have been filled, dredged, or developed, the estuary of the Nisqually River has been set aside especially for wildlife. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, marsh and water birds...all are attracted to the mosaic of habitats found on the Nisqually Delta. A five-mile long dike currently separates saltwater habitats from freshwater habitats and creates a land of diversity for more than 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. By walking the 5-1/2 mile Brown Farm Dike Trail visitors can view a variety of habitat types and the wildlife that live in them.

Saltmarsh and Open Mudflats Outside the dike are saltmarshes and open mudflats washed by the changing tides of Puget Sound. The salty water brings rich nutrients to the variety of clams, crabs, worms, and shrimp living in the mud, while these creatures in turn feed shorebirds, gulls, ducks, and herons.

Freshwater Marsh and Open Grasslands Inside the dike freshwater marshes and open grasslands provide a quiet resting and wintering area for up to 20,000 migratory waterfowl. The grasslands teem with mice and voles, which are a ready meal for hawks, owls, and coyotes. Thick cattails and sedges surround the freshwater marshes and give protection to marsh wrens, soras, bitterns, and salamanders.

Riparian Woodland and Brush Habitats A walk on the Brown Farm Dike Trail also takes visitors through riparian woodland and brush habitats. Careful observers may see winter wrens, red-legged frogs, pileated woodpeckers, and even great horned owls among the large cottonwood, alder, and big leaf maple trees growing along the Nisqually River. Along McAllister Creek, crabapples, roses, and blackberries provide a smorgasbord for songbirds. Watch for evening grosbeaks, cedar waxwings, and finches.

Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset. The trails are open only for walking pets are not allowed. Bring your binoculars, spotting scope, and camera, and enjoy your visit
 Hiking Trailyes
Travelling the waters of the Nisqually River or McAllister Creek by boat is sure to reveal natural wonders that cannot be experienced on land by foot.

Boating is permitted in waters outside the Brown Farm Dike. Canoeists, kayakers, and small boaters should beware of hazardous tides, shallow waters, wind, and weather conditions around the Nisqually Delta. There is a boat speed restriction of 5mph in all Refuge waters.

The nearest public boat ramps are Luhr Beach located at the mouth of McAllister Creek, and Nisqually HNDCP located at river mile 3.7 on the Nisqually River south of I-5 at 6th Ave SE. Both of these sites require a Vehicle Use Permit issued by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Refuge has 7 miles of walking trails. The one-mile Twin Barns Loop Trail is a fully accessible boardwalk trail with access to the observation platform. The 5.5 mile Brown Farm Dike Trail provides views of many different habitats and access to the observation platform and photo blinds. Please stay on the trails. Seasonal closures of trails occur throughout the year.

The Refuge presents many wonderful opportunities for photographers. Two photo blinds, observation platforms, and trails provide countless possibilities to capture that perfect moment.

Brown Farm Dike Loop Trail (Seasonal) : This level 5 ? mile loop trail is on an earthen dike. The trail is wide with both gravel and dirt surfaces and can be muddy in some places. All the major types of habitat found at the Refuge can be seen from this trail.

To Observation Tower (Seasonal) : The observation tower is located 2 miles along the east side of the Brown Farm Dike Trail. The tower overlooks the salt marsh and mud flats and can accommodate about 8 people.

Ring Dike TrailThe Ring Dike is a ? mile trail located 1 mile along the east side of the Brown Farm Dike Trail. It offers views of a freshwater marsh.

Twin Barns Loop Trail : This level 1 mile boardwalk passes through woodland, grasslands, and freshwater marshes to the Twin Barns and observation platform, ending back where it starts at the Visitor Center. There are two spur trails off this trail, the Riparian Forest Overlook and the Nisqually River Overlook.

To Riparian Forest Overlook : A short trail to an observation deck branches off the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. It curves through a surge plain, where very high tide causes the Nisqually River to spill into wooded habitat.

To Nisqually River Overlook : A little under one-half of a mile around the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, the boardwalk extends for another 150 yards to the river. Here there is an observation deck with a mounted spotting scope for wildlife viewing along the Nisqually River.

To McAllister Creek : To get to McAllister Creek, walk along the south side of the Brown Farm Dike Trail for ? mile. This section of trail passes through grasslands and freshwater marshes.

Seasonal Trail Closures : Three miles of the Brown Farm Dike Trail are closed during waterfowl hunting season. Typically the closure is from early October to late January, but specific dates vary from year to year. The trail is closed because waterfowl hunting is allowed on Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife lands adjacent to the Refuge trail. It is not safe to walk in the area, and closing the trail provides an undisturbed area for birds to rest and feed. For more information, see the Seasonal Trail Closures map.
Nature Programs
Thank You for your interest in a field trip to Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge Each year approximately 5,000 students, teachers, and group leaders visit Billy Frank, Jr. NWR.

The Refuge is a popular place and reservations for school groups are required. Call the Refuge office at 360 753-9467 for a copy of the reservation form.

Teacher Resources We recommend that teachers visit the Refuge and walk the trails prior to their field trip as well as have clearly defined goals and objectives. The Refuge also offers many resources to assist in planning and making the most of your field trip.

NEW The Second Edition of the Educator's Guide to Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge. Where the River Meets the Sound, is the final version of the educator's guide that offers complete field trip planning, preparation, and activities for the classroom and field trip.

Lesson Planning Assistance The Refuge Environmental Education Coordinator is available to meet with teachers and group leaders to help plan field trips. This staff member can recommend activities and places to go on the refuge that will help you achieve your learning objectives.

Teacher Workshops The first Billy Frank, Jr. NWR teacher workshop was held in April 2002 with Educator's Guides given to participants and clock hours available. Given the success of this training, we will hold workshops at least twice a year.

Program Offerings Teachers are responsible for planning and leading their field trip activities. The volunteer or staff guides will assist you with the following program elements

Orientation Talks by Refuge Volunteers Refuge volunteers are available upon request to give a brief 15-20 minutes orientation program to groups with reservations.

Making Reservations Advanced reservations are required for all school groups visiting Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge. Billy Frank, Jr. NWR is a popular place with limited facilities. With reservations we can schedule classes so they do not use Refuge facilities at the same time, coordinate with volunteers, and provide better interpretive and educational programs.

To make a reservation, contact the Environmental Education Coordinator, Kayla Matthies at 360 753-9467 or

Reservations are processed on a first come, first served basis from the day the application forms are received at the Refuge office.

If you have requested a service provided by Refuge staff and volunteers, allow at least two weeks for your application to be processed.

Once the application has been processed you will receive written notification confirming dates and times for your group's visit. Please bring this confirmation form with you when you visit the Refuge.

The number of groups may vary, however, the number of total students is limited to 100 students on any given day. This may be five groups of 20 students or two groups of 50. This number is in addition to the public visitors who do not have reservations.

What About the Entrance FeeEducation groups must meet the following criteria in order for the fee to be waived

The education activity of the group should be formally structured with an approved course of study which focuses on the natural environment.

The students are involved in a hands-on field activity on Refuge lands.

Groups that qualify as education groups will have exempt stamped on their confirmation notice.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
April 28 Not as I Remembered It... But Great!
park review stars; one to five I haven?t been to the refuge since Y2K. Yes, the lands and the loop have changed since then but the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail is truly fantastic. It was so terrific to see birders of every age enjoying the sights and sounds of the refuge residents. Well done!
August 6 A Pacific Northwest Diamond in the Rough by A scientist and avid hiker
park review stars; one to five I firmly maintain that Nisqually is transforming into an area of trails surrounded by a fantastic myriad of NATURAL habitats. The refuge lands will not be fully appreciated until nature takes over the restoration efforts of the NNWR scientists and the area evolves back into its pre-Brown Farm dike state. Thanks to those scientists, the restoration efforts are revamping an area of immeasurable value in western Washington for both wildlife and those who actually appreciate hiking a native habitat of the Nisqually Delta. So,if you want to experience trails within an ecosystem of a soon-to-be NATURAL condition flourishing with wildlife, Nisqually NWR is the place for you!
August 12 Abolishing the trails by Gwen & Joe
park review stars; one to five Too bad the trails are closed. We loved it down there. But alas, the environmentalists won again. We will NEVER return to the refuge again, unfortunately. Thank God we have pictures to remember it.
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Area Campgrounds
Deep Lake Resort
12405 Tilley Road South
Olympia, WA
Olympia Campground
1441 83rd Avenue SW
Olympia, WA
Nearby Hotels

Billy Frank, Jr. National Wildlife Refuge is located 8 miles northeast of Olympia, Washington.

From Interstate 5 southbound, take exit 114. Make a right at the traffic light, go under the freeway and make a right into the Refuge. Follow the entrance road to the two public parking lots.

From Interstate 5 northbound, take exit 114. Make a left at the stop sign, go under the highway and make a right into the Refuge. Follow the entrance road to the two public parking lots.

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