This is "the Nisqually River Delta, a biologically rich and diverse area at the southern end of the Puget Sound...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 which extend throughout Puget Sound and beyond...Billy Frank, Jr. (1931-2014) was a Nisqually Indian, fisherman, civil rights leader, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom."*
Over the years, in our travels between Portland, Oregon, and Milton, Washington, we have passed by the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge sign on Interstate 5 countless times. Each time I wanted to stop and explore, see what was there. Today, Diane Howell Evans and I checked it out on a 6k (3.8 mi.) Volksmarch.
Because it's a national wildlife refuge, our National Park Senior Pass got us in for free. All we had to do was carry it with us. If you don't have a National Park Pass, Federal Duck Stamp, Interagency, Annual, Military Annual, Refuge Annual, Senior, or Access Pass, then you pay a $3.00 admission fee which is good for four adults. The Norm Dicks Visitor Center is currently closed due to COVID-19. There are port-a-potties along the trails. No jogging, no pets, no bicycling, no camping, no drones, and no fires on the refuge.
We started at the visitor center and headed through a tree tunnel out to grasslands. A big bird was startled from a tree near us and flew low over the grasslands to a stand of trees. It had a medium gray belly and a black back. I'm wondering if it was a Black-Crowned Night Heron. We headed toward the Twin Barns.
|I am in the tree tunnel.|
|The mystery bird flew |
across the grasslands here.
|The gravel path to the Twin Barns.|
|The Twin Barns.|
|Close-up of one of the barns.|
|Looking across the grasslands and estuary.|
|Here's an expansive view |
of the Olympic Mountains.
|The gravel trail to the boardwalk.|
|Looking across the delta at the boardwalk.|
|Entrance to the boardwalk.|
The boardwalk is 1.2 miles one way and of course, we have to come back that way or we'd be in deep mucky mud! And it's off-limits to go off the boardwalk! Let's see what kind of birds we can find. I have my binoculars, so off we go.
|Great egret in the tree.|
|Informational sign about the birds.|
|The boardwalk is wonderful.|
|It took a lot of work to build this!|
|Heed the warning signs.|
|Ring-billed gull and great blue heron.|
|On the boardwalk, down by the sea...|
"The Nisqually estuary was restored in 2009, by removing dikes and reconnecting 762 acres with the tides of Puget Sound."*
|A Caspian tern.|
|The far end of the boardwalk is in sight!|
|Info about the Nisqually Flats.|
|A bird just hanging out in the blind.|
|About the Aquatic Reserve.|
|Nisqually Reach Nature Center.|
|Seining for research.|
|The river delta where it meets the sea.|
|Great blue heron.|
|I watched this gull chase and capture |
the crab...now in its beak!
When we entered the boardwalk into the woods, it was a whole different world. First, I saw a pretty snake and actually got a couple of photos as it slithered away.
|Impatiens capensis. (Orange |
jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not.)
|A tiny green tree frog!|
|This boardwalk passes the Freshwater |
Wetlands Overlook and the
|Very pretty woods.|
|We did not see any bees|
|Leaving via the tree tunnel.|
|Green heron stretching its neck.|
We headed home. Diane dropped me off at the 5th wheel. This was a very relaxing walk.
*From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service "Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge" brochure.