Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge


The last adventure on our Yakima weekend took us out near Toppenish, Washington, to the Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. It is a bit of a drive from civilization, but certainly an easy one, with open roads and sparse traffic. We went to the main section of the refuge, but Toppenish consists of several sections, all located along tributaries of the Yakima River.

Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge

Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge

I was hoping to see lots of overwintering birds, but it was not to be.

The Marsh at Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge - Bird Free

The Marsh at Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge – Bird Free

The positives:

  • This refuge has a mowed walking trail through a grassy field, which then runs along the edge of a pond. If there were birds there, it would provide good access to view them.
  • It is in Eastern Washington – so even though it was cold, it wasn’t raining (it had rained the day before though).
  • We saw lots of deer poop and rabbit poop. I bet when it isn’t hunting season, they are all around (I never used to be this interested in poop.).
  • The walking trail at this refuge is longer than many of the other refuges we have visited.
  • Toppenish NWR provides crucial habitat for an endangered type of Columbia River steelhead trout, as this is one of the only places they spawn.

The negatives:

  • The hunting section is very close to the walking section in this refuge. Although we couldn’t see hunting, we could certainly hear it. And the hunters have to hike back in with their bags full of dead birds right past the wildlife watchers. It made me sad.
  • Where were the birds? There were some ducks, but they were pretty far away – so far you couldn’t even see what kind they were. And not anywhere near the numbers of ducks that I have seen at other refuges.
  • There’s no car tour route – so you have to walk. That’s not a problem for us, but could be for others.
Ducks Fly Overhead - This was as close as we got.

Ducks Fly Overhead – This was as close as we got.

I did startle a Ring-necked Pheasant out of the bush while we were walking. I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture as he flew away. He was neat to see; we don’t have many pheasants west of the mountains.  We also saw a falcon up on a power line as we were leaving the refuge.  He was kind of far away but small, so my best guess is that he was an American Kestrel.

I think this is a Prairie Falcon - he wasn't very close.

I think this is an American Kestrel – he wasn’t very close.

I’m not sure if we just picked a bad time of year for Toppenish. The other refuges we have visited have had lots of birds in the winter. Eastern Washington typically gets quite a bit of snow, but there wasn’t much this year, and the temperatures were in the 40s the day we were there.

I wasn’t as impressed as I have been with the other refuges we have been to. But Jon liked it, and I would certainly give it another chance, because I’m just that kind of girl.

Have you ever been to Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge? What did you think?

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2 thoughts on “Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge

    • It does seem incompatible, doesn’t it? However, lots of the birds that visit the refuges are common, and I guess allowing hunting helps with population control, which ensures that the habitat is able to sustain the population. Most of the refuges have at least some hunting and/or fishing; I just appreciate when it isn’t quite so “in my face.”

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