Hike Across the Water into a Restored Estuary: Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

This is a flat hike, mostly on dikes and boardwalks that take you a full mile deep into the largest restored estuary in the Northwest, a birder’s delight.

Dozens of species of swans, geese, ducks, loons, grebes, cormorants, and herons are commonly seen, as well as eagles, osprey, hawks, and falcons who feed upon rich supplies of fish and reptiles. Beavers, mink, and weasles round out the wildlife you are likely to spot.

I will provide a scope and binoculars, but you’ll definitely want to bring a camera, preferably one with telephoto lens.

The Nisqually River and tidelands have been restored. Mt. Rainier looms over the renewed tideflats.

The Refuge was established in 1974 on farmland that had been “reclaimed” from Puget Sound by diking in the early 1900s near the site of Medicine Creek, where an important treaty was made with several tribes of Native Americans, including the Nisquallys. Native “fish-ins” at Nisqually in the 1960s, lead by Nisqually elder and activist Billy Frank Jr., and publicized with the participation of actor Marlon Brando, focused attention on the treaty’s fishing rights that had been curtailed or ignored by the state of Washington over the years. This eventually lead to a landmark federal court trial in 1974 in which native fishing rights were reaffirmed (the famous “Boldt Decision”).

In 2009 the man-made dikes were removed, reclaiming and restoring the native tidelands. In 2015, the Refuge was officially renamed the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

The Nisqually Refuge sits near the bottom of Puget Sound, about 60 miles south of Seattle.

Hiker Level: 1  2  3  4

Round-trip travel time: 2.5 hours
Hiking time: 3.5 hours
Total time: 6 hours
Best season: Year round

Adventure pricing:
Solo:        $295.00
Duo:         $375.00
Trio:         $455.00
Quad:      $535.00

(Prices exclude Washington state sales tax)