Fern Ridge Wildlife Area consists of 5,010 acres of woodlands, creeks, grasslands, marshes and planted croplands. The area is maintained by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with the goal of attracting and maintaining large populations of waterfowl, providing habitat for native plant species, and managing for a high level of species diversity. The ODFW tries to provide wildlife oriented recreation (hunting and wildlife watching) while following principles of wildlife conservation and education.
The Applegate Unit envelops the Long Tom River as it empties into Fern Ridge Reservoir along its western shore. The habitat is primarily dense deciduous forest with some grassy marsh areas at the unit's northern edge. The southern parking lot, halfway between Elmira and Veneta, has a canoe access point that allows paddlers to wind their way down numerous braided channels to the lake in the spring and summer. The reservoir is emptied in the fall and winter, and the river becomes very shallow and is blocked in places by logs. There is also a short trail that follows the river and provides opportunities for spotting herons, ospreys, wood ducks, turkeys and thrushes. There are some muddy beaches that would make pleasantly sedate swimming spots during hot weather.
The parking lot on the north side of Elmira provides opportunities to explore open swales and cattail marshes that are frequented by great blue herons and red-winged blackbirds. Keep an eye out for snipes here in the winter.