Sunday morning’s weather was the most encouraging in a few days so we hit the road early and headed for the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Olympia. With almost 7 miles of flat trails, this are is an excellent chance to get in a lot of walking, enjoy several natural habitats, and be outside! The Nisqually River Delta is a biologically rich and diverse area at the southern end of Puget Sound. This is where the freshwater of the Nisqually River combines with the saltwater of Puget Sound. This is why Farmer Brown (no joke) constructed a 5.5 mile dike around his farm – to keep out the saltwater. The Brown Farm Dike Trail is the main loop around the Refuge. This dike has created diverse habitats for more than 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
Begin at the Visitor Center and head counter-clockwise. You first travel through a cool, breezy riparian forest. Riparian forest buffers are areas of forested land adjacent to streams, rivers, marshes or shoreline that form the transition between land and water environments. Here is more information regarding the importance of maintaining a riparian forest. I realize this link will take you to the Chesapeake Bay but the information is very good and applicable to any riparian habitat. As you approach the north section of the trail, you enter the saltmarsh and open mudflats of the Nisqually River Delta. The salty water brings rich nutrients to the variety of clams, crabs, worms, and shrimp living in the mud, while these creatures in turn feed shorebirds, gulls, ducks, and herons. We did spot lots of Great Blue Herons and a couple Northern Harriers. There are also two large barns on the property which are home to hundreds of swallows. The sky is full of them. Next time we will get there even earlier and better our chances of viewing other wildlife.