Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Great Blue Heron at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Great Blue Heron at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

A short distance north of Olympia, Washington, lies the Nisqually River Delta, where the freshwater of the Nisqually River merges with the saltwater of Puget Sound to create an estuary rich in flora and fauna. As I-5 drops down and crosses the approximate two miles of tidal wetlands before rising back up and entering Olympia, it’s probably the most scenic, albeit short, stretch of highway between Seattle and the state’s capitol.

In 1974 the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge was established to “to protect the delta and its diversity of fish and wildlife habitats.” It’s a beautiful and, at $3 per vehicle, inexpensive way to spend a day exploring the delta’s rich variety of animal and plant life. There are several trails traversing the refuge, including a two-mile long boardwalk with several covered viewing platforms that allow visitors to watch the tides come and go directly underneath them, along with the wildlife that follows.

I recently spent a very chilly winter’s morning at the refuge walking its trails and chasing the morning light. While the wildlife wasn’t as varied as I’d hoped for, it still was a fantastic way to spend a rare clear-skied January day in the Pacific Northwest, and it was an opportunity to get up close and personal (in the photographic sense) with a magnificent Great Blue Heron, among a few other things.

(Click on a pic to embiggen and view the full gallery.)
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