This 6,200-acre refuge, named for a local congresswoman, provides habitat for an endangered subspecies of white-tailed deer — and for birds. About 250 of the 365 bird species found in Washington favor this stretch of the Lower Columbia and nearby land. It’s particularly important for wintering waterfowl and migrant shorebirds and songbirds. Your best bet is to drive or cycle Steamboat Slough Rd., paddle the outskirt sloughs, hike the gated and grassy Center Rd., or sit on the river shore. I recommend all of the above.
On a visit in April, I divided my time between land and slough, walking the perimeter roads and paddling the backwaters in my canoe. Geese flying noisily between Price Island and the refuge’s inland fields enlivened the misty sky in the morning. On my afternoon paddle, eight Bald Eagles flew out of a big spruce above Steamboat Slough. The birds nest in the area December through March, and several stay year-round. I saw adults and juveniles throughout the day. Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Cedar Waxwings, swallows, ducks, gulls, and a Peregrine Falcon added to my day’s list. — Rhonda Ostertag
Rhonda Ostertag is a guidebook author. She also wrote about William L. Finley NWR in Corvallis, Oregon, Hotspot Near You No. 120.