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Audubon Birding Day: Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

This is a drive-yourself day trip. We will encourage and facilitate carpooling.

Join Erin to explore one of the country’s largest restored estuaries, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, located just north of Olympia, Washington. For one year, Erin was a wildlife technician at Billy Frank Jr., performing bird counts, education programs, shorebird surveys at Gray’s Harbor, and analyzing wildlife data.

Located where the Nisqually River meets south Puget Sound, this unique refuge has estuary, tide flat, freshwater marsh, forest, and grassland habitat all in one! The refuge contains both the Twin Barns Loop Trail (one-mile round-trip) and the Nisqually Estuary Trail (three miles round-trip).

The Twin Barns Loop Trail is short, with fantastic scenery, and the Nisqually Estuary Trail is where we will walk on an elevated boardwalk above the tidal area. If we get a clear day, we will enjoy stunning views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. Bald Eagle is a guarantee, and some of the other species likely present will be Cackling Geese, American Widgeon, Black-bellied Plover, and Caspian Tern. Participants should bring enough food and water to last them through the day. Please dress in layers.

In 2015, Congress passed a law renaming the refuge for Billy Frank Jr., a tireless advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship. The bill also created a national memorial at nearby Medicine Creek, where the first treaty was signed in 1854 between the U.S. government and the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Squaxin Island tribes of the Northwest. We acknowledge that we are on the traditional and ancestral lands of the Nisqually people, or “Squally-Absch.” Squally-Absch means “People of the River, People of the Grass.” Nisqually people have inhabited and stewarded these lands Since Time Immemorial. The Nisqually Tribe continues to lead in the stewardship of the Nisqually Watershed today, and we are grateful to them for being able to be on this land today.

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Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation changes: 42 feet
Trail: Mostly gravel or grass and may be muddy in certain areas. There is a one-mile wooden boardwalk loop that is handicap-accessible. Part of the trail is paved.
Pacing: Slow
Rest stops: Multiple areas with benches and/or picnic tables
Sun exposure: Much of the estuary trail (3 miles) is full exposure/no cover
Amenities: There is an accessible restroom at the visitor center and an ADA portable toilet about ½ mile down the trail.

Public transportation: Carpooling will be facilitated.

Bird with us at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Join Erin Law to explore this incredibly scenic National Wildlife Refuge. We are guaranteed a full day of birding and fun from the estuary to the forest.


Trip Details

  • Leader: Erin Law
  • Date and time: October 8, 10:00 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Fee: $90 members / $110 non-members


October 8
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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