Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Visited During World Wildlife Day
On December 18, 2015 the “Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act” was signed into law by President Obama, along McAllister Creek, within the Refuge boundary. This act officially changed the name from Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The signing also created the Medicine Creek Treaty National Memorial.
Billy Frank Jr. played a huge role through acts of civil disobedience and a grassroots campaign to acknowledge the terms of the original 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty between the US Government and the Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, and Squaxin Island Indian Tribes. This treaty was largely ignored until Frank was arrested over 50 times through the 1960’s and 1970’s. The US Supreme Court was forced to make a decision in 1974 and found in favor of the Tribes and the original treaty.
After that decision Frank went on to be chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 30 years. He had been awarded and recognized many times through his life and died in 2014. President Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2015.
March 3rd, 2016 was World Wildlife Day. We decided to visit the newly renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Rain was expected for the morning and intermittently throughout the day. We timed our arrival just after the morning rain.
The sun was shining as we pulled into the parking lot. Adjacent to an administration building, atop a tall, bare tree there was perched a falcon.
Leaving all other gear, we leapt out of the Jeep and moved in close to get some photos. After numerous shots of this beautiful bird, we got our bearings and headed to the Visitor Center.
We took more photos of geese and ducks along the boardwalk then headed inside. We perused the nature displays and the small gift shop. We signed the guest book and opted to “rent” a pair of binoculars (leave your driver license with the attendant in exchange), before heading out.
The expanse of the refuge covers some 762 acres. There are trails, boardwalks and overlooks. This area is teeming with bird life. Here, the saltwater of the Puget Sound mingles with the fresh water of the Nisqually River. This, now protected, estuary provides an abundance of nutrients for wildlife.
We started down a weathered, wooden boardwalk along the water. There were numerous songbirds in the surrounding trees, one photogenic robin, ducks on the water and nearby geese.
As we left the shelter of the trees and continued up a gravel roadway, we saw a great number of geese and ducks, hawks and a bald eagle. We were able to get reasonably close to a blue heron, who modestly posed for us.
There are twin, old, white barns along the way. These were built in 1932 as part of the 2,350 acre Brown Farm. They serve as points of interest both for their history and the setting. There are a few picnic tables at this spot, under some trees. The trails go on for miles. There is an extended boardwalk of newer construction that traverses the tidal areas. On a clear day the Tacoma Narrows Bridge can be seen far in the distance.
While this is a lovely place to enjoy and experience nature, the sounds of the highway are impressively loud. We didn’t take the opportunity to explore all of the boardwalks and trails as the weather turned rapidly unfriendly.
Strong winds and rain drove us back to shelter. This is a place we will visit again. There is much to see. We did encounter several other hikers, walkers, photographers, serenity seekers along the way, each passing with a smile and continuing on their path.
Fee: $3 per four adults. Various passes, like the Interagency Annual Pass, will allow the pass holder and up to three additional adults in. See website for more info.
Hours: Refuge is open daily from Sunrise to Sunset. Visitor Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 A.M to 4 P.M.