The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife preserve operated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on the Nisqually River Delta near Puget Sound in northeastern Thurston County, Washington and northwestern Pierce County, Washington.
Bald eagles, deer, snowy owls, keep an eye out for wonderful wildlife in the refuge. Hungry? Right across the highway from the refuge is the Nisqually Tribe owned Medicine Creek Cafe. A great little "home feel" diner with breakfast all day, burgers, fish and chips, salads and more. Best of all, great diner prices.
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. While most major estuaries in the state have been filled, dredged, or developed, Nisqually River's has been set aside for wildlife. In 1974, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the delta and its diversity of fish and wildlife habitats. The Nisqually estuary was restored in 2009 by removing dikes and reconnecting 762 acres with the tides of Puget Sound. This is the largest estuary restoration project in the Pacific Northwest and an important step in the recovery of Puget Sound.
The Refuge will seasonally close the last 700 feet of the boardwalk trail including the Puget Sound Viewing Platform. Eighty seven percent (.92 miles) of the trail will remain open. Visitors should be aware that waterfowl hunters will be in areas open for hunting along McAllister Creek.
Visitors to the Refuge can still hike the 1-mile Twin Barns Loop Trail and 1.5 miles of the Nisqually Estuary Trail. From the Visitor Center to the seasonal closure on the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail and back is 3.75 miles. The Refuge trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Refuge Visitor Center is open Wednesday – Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
Snowy Owls have returned to Nisqually for the second consecutive year, visible every day since six owls were spotted on the morning of November 13th. It is extremely unusual to see Snowy Owls for two consecutive years. They typically range this far south only once every five to ten years in an event called an irruption (the periodic movement of numbers of birds into unusual ranges for a season). Last winter’s irruptive event was one of the most pronounced on record, with owls seen as far south as Texas; one even made it, for the first time ever, to Hawaii. Read more at https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147505175