Covering more than 4,500 acres, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a remarkable place to explore. The varied habitats include the riparian forest along the Nisqually River and the salt marshes where the land intersects with Puget Sound. More than 300 species of wildlife and fish can be found at the refuge.
To help visitors better understand the natural and cultural history of the area, the refuge offers interpretive walks each weekend. These walks are led by local experts and offer participants an in-depth look at different aspects of the refuge.
All the walks leave from the Norm Dicks Visitor Center, unless otherwise noted. The refuge trails are beginner-level, smooth with no elevation, but participants should wear comfortable shoes. You can bring binoculars or check them out at the visitor center.
The walks are free, and there is a $3 entrance fee.
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Visitors should know that pets are not allowed at the refuge, and biking and running are prohibited.
Here is a look at upcoming walks:
Sunday (May 22): Noon-1 p.m. “Home Sweet Home” is a short walk through the various habitats of the refuge. Along the way, you will hear stories of the Squalli Absch natives, farmer Brown and the events surrounding the Medicine Creek Treaty. Meet Sue Stone at the flagpole in front of the visitor center.
Sunday (May 22): 1-2:30 p.m. “It’s in Your Nature: Exploring the Wild.” Life at the refuge reaches its maximum intensity during the spring. Flowers blossom and the animals at the refuge are looking for mates. This walk is led by naturalist Mark Hunter.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-noon. “It’s in Your Nature: Exploring the Wild.” Nature takes many forms on the refuge, from salmonberries to salmon fish, and bitterns to butterflies. Naturalists Art Pavey and Jan Kramer will lead this nature walk.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. “The Magical Forest.” Ellen Sweetin will help answer questions such as why skunk cabbage stinks and if all woodpecker holes are the same. Sweetin will lead the group through the riparian forest and talk about its inhabitants.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. “Amazing Animal Adaptations!” The refuge will have its Critter Cart set up in front of the visitor center so visitors can get an up-close look at pelts and other artifacts. They will help provide clues on how animals at the refuge have adapted to their surroundings. This is a good way to start a visit to the refuge.
Saturday: 1-2:30 p.m. “It’s in Your Nature: Exploring the Wild.” The refuge’s saltwater wetland is home to insects, plants, amphibians, birds and animals. Naturalist Donna Snow will talk about how they are all linked together.
May 29: 1-2:30 p.m. Snow again leads her walk through the wetlands.
Get more information on the walks, and other aspects of visit the refuge, at fws.gov/refuge/Billy_Frank_Jr_Nisqually.