This large waterfowl haven located between Corvallis and Eugene is an overwintering site for the Dusky Canada Goose, and it’s a great spot to see California Quail, Western Meadowlark, Lazuli Bunting, and other birds.
By Rhonda Ostertag | Published: 6/24/2011
In 1905, conservationist William L. Finley spearheaded the formation of Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon coast — the first wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi. In the 1960s, about 10 years after his death, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established this refuge in Finley’s honor. Along with sister refuges Baskett Slough and Ankeny, it provides critical winter habitat for the Dusky Canada Goose and other waterfowl.
Smaller than their cousins, Duskies keep limited, highly specialized summer and winter ranges, and winter almost exclusively in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Tens of thousands of geese use the refuge lands and waters. For birders, the confined spaces serve up fantastic shows as the geese rest and feed. Periodic patrols by Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks launch sky-darkening clouds of wings. Sometimes, the eagles cull injured or sickened birds from the noisy throng. That, too, is nature.
Spring flocks of Dunlins delight me with their bunched flights and Venetian-blind wing flashes. I have whiled away summer afternoons at the refuge feeders, watching hummingbirds, goldfinches, and Evening Grosbeaks. From the trails, I have spied woodpeckers, waxwings, bluebirds, and Great Horned Owls. It’s a special place. — Rhonda Ostertag
Rhonda Ostertag is an avid birder and guidebook author who travels widely to bird. She lives in Keizer, Oregon.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Management ponds, marshes, and fields; riparian areas; grassy bottoms; upland woods; Oregon white oak savanna; and rare native prairie.
Mostly flat trails with low foothills. Bird from your car along refuge roads. Boardwalk is wheelchair-accessible.
Wetlands: Canada and Cackling Geese, Tundra Swan, and Northern Pintail (October to March); Great Blue Heron (year-round). Riparian areas: Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Horned Owl, Northern Flicker (year-round). Uplands: Bushtit, Dark-eyed Junco, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch (year-round). Grasslands: California Quail, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel. Oak savanna: American Goldfinch (summer-fall); Western Bluebird (summer); White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker, Northern Harrier (year-round). Native prairie: Western Meadowlark (winter); Lazuli Bunting, Barn and Cliff Swallows. Rarities: Trumpeter Swan, Ross’s Goose, Ruffed Grouse, and Mountain Bluebird.
When to go
Year-round. October to March for Dusky Canada Goose and other waterfowl; mornings and evenings best for sheer numbers.
Headquarters and nature store have brochures, bookstore, restrooms, drinking fountain, and outdoor feeders. Occasional guided walks. Photography blinds (reservation required November 1 to March 31).
National wildlife refuge. No fee. Open sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Avoid poison oak off trail; ticks active in spring. Scopes best for identification and behavior study.
For more info
Snag Boat Bend Unit
11 miles south of Corvallis on Peoria Rd. This 341-acre satellite unit of Finley NWR has river access and riparian trails. Good spot for ducks, shorebirds, egrets, and songbirds.
E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area
10 miles north of Corvallis at Camp Adair Rd. More than 180 species have been seen here, including Tundra Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Vaux’s Swift, and Varied Thrush.