Day Trip to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

We often neglect the things in our own backyard as being too local or too familiar.  And so it was for me with the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge which I had passed by many, many times on my way to somewhere else.

“Someday,” I would say to my husband Bob, “we’ll have to stop.”

But we never did.  All these years.  Until today.  After being sick and housebound all week, Bob was desperate to get out and enjoy the summer weather we were having.  The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge would be perfect for a day trip and simple hike.  After stopping by our favorite coffee shop (you know the one) we headed south for the hour drive to the Refuge.

A little background first for those of you unfamiliar with the Nisqually. There is a big beautiful mountain in our neck of the woods which has more glaciers than any other peak in the continental United States. One of those glaciers on Mt. Rainier is the Nisqually, the source of the river that flows from the mountain into Puget Sound, forming the rich Nisqually River Delta. The Glacier and River were named after the Nisqually Tribe who have lived in this area for thousands of years.

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 to protect the delta and its diverse fish and wildlife habitats. It was renamed in 2015 to honor Billy Frank Jr.,  a Nisqually Indian activist for Native American rights, who played an important role in getting treaty fishing rights restored to local tribes.

We arrive at the Refuge and after browsing through the Visitor Center, take the Twin Barns Loop Trail, an easy boardwalk through riparian forest. Here we are dwarfed by enormous maple trees which overshadow us. The air is warm and fragrant, and rich in the chatter of birdsong.  The peace is pervasive.

The boardwalk continues through the Refuge to several overlooks including the Nisqually River Overlook below.

Further down the trail we meet a photographer who shows us pictures he took of baby Great Horned Owls.  He’s carrying two large cameras, binoculars and a tripod.  I’m carrying my new and much smaller camera but am not skilled, nor patient enough to photograph birds – yet.  I am content rather to watch them flit through the brush and listen to their music and luxuriate under the tree canopy.  I do manage to photograph more sedentary fauna and flora including this turtle..

and these cattails releasing their seeds from velvety tops.

The Loop Trail was enough for today and we were both rejuvenated by our visit to this wonderland.  We vow to return again for the other trails and to experience the Nisqually River Delta in all four seasons.

~ Susanne

6 Comments on “Day Trip to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

  1. Looks like a great place to enjoy again and again, Susanne. Proves you don’t have to travel too far, to get the best from nature.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Susanne, Thanks for taking us with you. I’m now living my love for the beautiful NW vicariously through you. In Denver we’ve been hopping back and forth from snow to 80 degrees sprinkled with skylight breaking, roof destroying hail. I love it here but you know what Dorothy said…there’s no place like home. This entry puts me in the mind of soaring with you to Hood Canal– some of my very best memories of the good old days. I’m totally looking forward to your next adventure! xoxoxo, Lola

    • Hi Lola! I love that you are following along! It keeps you in my life. 😊 I too remember our trips to Hood Canal when we were practically kids. I have pictures of us traipsing through the woods. Good times! That gives me another good idea for the blog. Perhaps I will take you there soon! Colorado is beautiful and was fun to visit but with snow in May I don’t know if I could live there! Miss you dear friend!

  3. It’s a lovely area, and it was close enough to Tacoma that we visited often. We frequently took our smallest skiff and paddled around Nisqually Reach–where we once shared the water with a baby Killer whale!

    • Wow wonderful! A boat would make for an even better experience. We loved it and will definitely go back!

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