Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024
Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Decidedly Different and Diverse Destination: Nisqually River Delta - Friday, September 4, 2020

After so many towns, bike paths, and river trails, today we went someplace different. Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Refuge is a world unto itself, where the river meets the sea; a protected estuary, a home for wildlife, and a place for people.

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.
Visitor Info.

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.
From the barns, we headed to the Nisqually River Delta. A large gravel path led us to the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. On Sunday, we were hiking on Mt. Rainier, looking at the Nisqually Glacier and the Nisqually River. Today, we are seeing where the Nisqually River meets the sea. How great is that?

Looking across the grasslands and estuary.
Here's an expansive view
of the Olympic Mountains.

Sanctuary area.
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!
The boardwalk.

Double-crested cormorants.
Heed the warning signs.

Ring-billed gull.

Ring-billed gull and great blue heron.

Ring-billed gull.
On the boardwalk, down by the sea...

Ring-billed gull.
Interesting marker about the Brown Farm Dike. A dike was built many years ago to make this area arable. When the dike was built, they filled in behind it with soil so they could grow crops. It was separated from the estuary.

"The Nisqually estuary was restored in 2009, by removing dikes and reconnecting 762 acres with the tides of Puget Sound."*

A Caspian tern. 
I watched the Caspian tern (in the photo above) hunting over the water. It then hovered and dove into the water, but I think it missed. There was nothing in its beak when it came out.

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 in its beak!
It was fun to watch the birds today. I remembered to bring binoculars! We exited the boardwalk and headed into the woods. 

Almost off the boardwalk.

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.

There were wildflowers blooming. 

Impatiens capensis. (Orange
jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not.)
As I walked along the boardwalk, I watched a woman with a long telephoto lens take a photo. It looked like she was photographing something on the other side of the railing, maybe in the mud. As I got closer, I could see she was taking a photo of something on the railing. See below.

A tiny green tree frog!
We finished up on the boardwalk and went to the Visitor Center to see if there was anything else there, even though it was closed.

This boardwalk passes the Freshwater
Wetlands Overlook and the
Grasslands Overlook.

Freshwater Wetlands.

More boardwalk.
Very pretty woods.

We did not see any bees
Leaving via the tree tunnel.

A woman was intently taking photos of something at the back of the Visitor Center. We looked and looked for what she saw. Finally, a bird emerged from a small ditch. She said it's a green heron and she has been trying to find one for five weeks/months/years. We're not sure. Diane and I couldn't hear her very well through her mask. She was very excited, so it was probably five years. It's awesome because we got to see it, too!

Green heron.
Green heron.

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.