Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife
preserve operated by the United States Fish and
Wildlife Service on the Nisqually
River Delta near Puget
Sound in northeastern Thurston County,
Washington and northwestern Pierce County,
Washington. The refuge is located just off Interstate 5, between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia.
The 12.6 km² refuge was created in 1974 to provide habitat and
nesting areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds. It includes
a protected estuary
, salt marshes
and open mudflats
, freshwater marshes
, and riparian woodland
. An additional 3.2 km² (15.4 km² planned) is
protected by the disjoint Black River Unit on a tributary of the Chehalis River.
The wildlife refuge is home to the Nisqually River Delta, which has
the unique status as Washington’s largest, relatively undisturbed
estuary. The confluence of the freshwater Nisqually River and the
saltwater south Puget Sound has created a variety of unique
environments, each rich in nutrients and natural resources for the
local wildlife. A five-mile dike separates the freshwater from the
saltwater, providing habitats for more than 300 different species
of fish and wildlife.
Sea life features 24 species of fish located in one of three
or the Nisqually Reach nearshore. Large
populations of Fall Chinook Salmon
and Shiner Perch
offer a sampling of the fish that
are abundantly available. Water mammals range in size from small
The saltmarshes and mudflats are located outside of the dikes. Rich
in nutrients, they are the home to clams, crabs, shrimp and worms,
which in turn feed ducks, gulls and herons.
Over 20,000 birds, made up of 275 different migrating species, use
the freshwater marshes and grasslands for breeding, resting or
wintering. The most abundant bird types include raptors, shorebirds
and songbirds. Larger animals such as hawks
feast in the grassland due to the
presence of mice
The riparian woodland and brush habitats contain many amphibians,
mammals and reptiles.