"Preserved Willamette Valley Wilderness" William Finley National Wildlife Refuge by glabah
William Finley National Wildlife Refuge Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 222 photos
Much of the Willamette Valley has been converted to farm land, developed parks, housing, industry, and various other human developed forms. Approximately 1% has been preserved in its pre-European settler "wilderness" form.
The William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is one of those preserved locations - though even here a lot has had to be created artificially as the native ecosystem has been so disrupted that the natural seasonal flood stages no longer occur.
While this refuge is mostly made up of Willamette Valley ecosystems, it also includes bits and pieces of the start of the foothills of the Coast Range mountains as well. Parts of the refuge are as flat as a pancake, but others are quite hilly. The Mill Hill trail wanders through part of the forested hills section of the refuge that is more of a coast range habitat than traditional Willamette Valley ecosystem.
There are about 12 miles (20 km) of walking trails, but only about 6 miles (10 km) are open all year. During the winter, Canada geese winter over in the Willamette Valley, and this is one of the very popular locations for them. During this time, entry to many parts of the refuge is prohibited as the Dusky Canada Goose is a protected species. It only nests in one small part of Canada, and generally only winters in the Willamette Valley. Due to a sharp decline in their numbers several decades ago, at the request of the government of Canada the Willamette Valley refuges protect wintering grounds for this particular type of Canada goose.
The Finley Refuge Road Kiosk and Prairie Overlook platform (seen in the photo at left) provide a good introuduction point to the various points on the refuge, and have literature racks for maps and brocures of this refuge, plus a general brocure about the Willamette Valley wildlife refuges. It is the natural place for most people to start their tour of the refuge.
Hiking Trails in the wildlife refuges in the Willamette Valley generally include both seasonal and all-year trails. The seasonal trails are closed in the winter to prevent the presence of people from interfering with the lives of the various wildlife that come here to find winter habitat.
Please note that hiking trails and many other places in the refuge have restrictions on their use. For example, bicycles, jogging and dogs are not permitted on the refuge trails. There are restrictions on bike use on the refuge roads (prohibited during certain seasons).
The William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge has six miles (10 km) or so of all-year trails. This gives it the distinction of having the longest all-year trail system of the National Wildlife Refuges in the Willamette Valley. All year walking trails are the Woodpecker Trail, the Intertie Trail, the Mill Hill trail and the Homer Campbell Memorial Trail.
The Woodpecker Trail has one of the best viewpoints in the refuge, and if you sit on these benches overlooking the Willamette Valley for a while you may get to see some birds of prey hunting, or some smaller birds prowling the bushes.
During high water days, the Homer Campbell Memorial Trail leads through a forest that is flooded. However, most of the time the water level isn't quite so dramatic as seen in the photos taken on January 3, 2009. That was an exceptionally high water day (though not completely unusual). Sometimes, even in winter, the water level is quite a bit lower than seen in those photos.
Some of the drama that you get to see at this refuge is in the sky in general, as seen here on 19 March 2011. There are several good viewpoints that allow views of the sky in various directions. Cloud formations can get pretty interesting here due to the weather patterns of the Pacific Ocean and Coast Range colliding with the weather patterns in the Willamette Valley.
The refuge headquarters offers a store and a few viewing opportunities right there at the easily accessible location. This is also the location where you are most likely to see the resident acorn woodpeckers.
- Pros:Good place to watch nature in the wintertime, with summer sightings also of interest to bird watchers.
- Cons:No dogs allowed on trails due to wildlife protection, many areas closed in winter, can be crowded at times due to people seeking recreational trips without any concern for how their actions on the trails will impact the wildlife or others.
- In a nutshell:This is not a state or regional park, and does its job of providing a wildlife sanctuary quite well.
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