Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges

Oregon Hiking, Wildlife, & Bird Watching Activities

The refuges of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex protect wetland habitat and provide opportunities for wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation.

Three wildlife refuges make up the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex:

  • Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
  • Baskett Slough NWR
  • William L. Finley NWR

The three refuges are located along Oregon’s I-5 corridor and the Willamette River, from Baskett Slough just west of Salem to Ankeny just south of Salem and William L. Finley just south of Corvallis.

The primary goal of the Willamette Valley Refuges is to provide a habitat for wintering dusky Canada geese. Thousands of these geese stop along their migration to feed and rest. The sanctuary of the refuges helps the geese survive while also lessening the effect of the geese on agricultural areas of the Willamette Valley. October is a peak time when flocks of geese begin to arrive at the refuges. The geese spend much of the winter in the area before returning to Alaska in the spring. The refuges protect key wetland habitat for the Canada geese.

Seasons of the Willamette Valley Refuges

Each season brings a diversity of plant and wildlife attractions at the Willamette Valley Refuges. The fall brings the arrival of thousands of geese and ducks to the refuge habitats, as well as elk herds. As winter comes, geese and ducks continue to feed on refuge fields and hawks and coyotes roam. Spring brings new life to the refuge fields and wetlands, with songbirds and blooming wildflowers. With summer, black-tail deer fawns frolic, and California quail are seen near the refuge roads. The grasses dry and the heat sets in.

Hiking at Willamette Valley Wildlife Refuges

Many of the hiking trails throughout the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex are well maintained. They vary in length from short distances to 2-3 miles. The trails, boardwalks and observation blinds provide ample opportunity for visitors to see various wildlife from frogs and fish to geese, ducks and herons, or elk and black-tail deer. Yet, wildlife isn’t the only attraction at the refuges. The surrounding habitat is also a welcoming sight. The three refuges protect some of the last abundant wet prairie and oak savanna habitats in the Willamette Valley, both necessary for nest sites and wildlife habitats. The quiet land away from distracting busy cities is a major attraction of the refuges.

Bird Watching Seasonal Checklists

The staff at U.S. Fish & Wildlife make it easy for visitors to identify birds at Willamette Valley Wildlife Refuges. The “Seasonal Checklist of Birds of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex” is available at all three refuges, Ankeny, Baskett Slough and William L. Finley. The checklist lists species by type, from geese and ducks to woodpeckers, hawks, songbirds and many others. The list includes nearly 50 type of bird species.

The checklist is easy to use, including a section where bird watchers can circle the season in which each species is sited, and the typical frequency of the particular bird, from abundant to uncommon or rare. The accidentals list provides a list of species not common at the refuge, considered “out of their normal range”, such as the American White Pelican or the Emperor Goose. The checklist is an excellent way for bird watchers to keep track of each bird species sites during the year.

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